A former Helston Community College pupil has been at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 from his home turf by delivering vital testing in Falmouth and across Cornwall.

Trooper Conor Heffernan, aged 20, has returned home as part of a mobile testing unit - one of many army teams deployed around the country to provide nationwide testing in support of the Department of Health and Social Care

Usually a skilled crewman on the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, Tpr Heffernan of Wiltshire based The Royal Tank Regiment has been on duty in Falmouth, Camborne and Penzance in the past weeks.

He said: “I am deployed with my troop delivering coronavirus testing to members of the public.

“I grew up in Helston, I spent the first 19 years of my life here. It’s nice to be back, and its really it’s nice to help the community that you’ve grown up in.

"It is good to be doing something that really matters, that’s what I joined to do really. To be able to do so in support of my own community is a privilege.”

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The soldiers set up a drive through system, in which they issue test kits and instructions to members of the public who then perform the tests inside their vehicles before returning the kit.

They are talked through the entire process by soldiers using mobile phones.

Conor added: “The only challenging part at first was remembering everything I had to say when explaining how to conduct the tests to the public, however I picked it up quickly and really enjoy meeting and speaking to the public.

"I feel getting out and speaking to the public has helped my confidence grow.

“It is weird coming here in uniform. I spent my youth here, getting busses around everywhere, and now I’m back here in uniform I feel proud.

"I love Helston, and Cornwall in general, but the variety of tasks and opportunities the army gives me to travel are wonderful.

"A lot of people just end up doing the same things every single day, but by joining the army you get to get out and do a real variety of things. I definitely plan to settle down in Cornwall one day though.”

Falmouth Packet:

Tpr Heffernan at Falmouth Rugby Club testing site

Despite growing up on the sea, Conor decided to join the army.

“I was massively keen on the History Channel growing up, I wanted to do everything. I wanted to join the navy, I wanted to join the air force, but then tanks just seemed to take hold.

"Plus I couldn’t join the navy - my mum is a chief petty officer in the navy, and she knows everyone," he joked.

Mum, Chief Petty Officer Una Heffernan, is a helicopter engineering instructor at HMS Sultan, Gosport.

She conceded that Conor was always going to be a soldier, saying: “My father was in the British Army Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, so I can let Conor off for not joining the navy.

"Had the army offered the opportunities for women in engineering that is does now I may have joined myself, and Conor always preferred playing in the mud to boats and planes!”

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Despite being so close to home, he has been unable to visit relatives, however.

“Because my mum was in the navy and a single parent my gran moved in to look after me. She is 82 now so I can’t go home and risk exposing her to coronavirus," he explained.

His mum added: "Conor has always been incredibly protective of his gran.

"He is delighted to be doing the task that he is, and I think his closeness to her just reinforces that.

"Given who is most at risk from Covid he is really rising to the challenge, there is nothing he wouldn’t do to help little old ladies.”