Spies from security agency GCHQ have taken part in a covert bike ride for charity. The 100-strong cycling team cycled 125km (77.7 miles) from Bletchley Park to Cheltenham to mark its centenary. The six-hour ride took place on Sunday and included GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming.
The event was kept secret to protect the identities of the riders hailing from divisions like counter-terrorism and cyber security. The challenge is expected to raise around £30,000, which will be split between its chosen charities. The race started at 07:45 BST and travelled through Thornborough, Mixbury, Chipping Norton and Stow-on-the-Wold before finishing at its base in Cheltenham just after 14:00.
Mr Fleming said: “Our secret cycle was a great way to help charities we all feel passionately about. “It was also another chance to celebrate our centenary and mark a history full of amazing intelligence, world-leading innovation, and most of all ingenious minds.” Half of the money raised will be donated to Cancer Research UK, with the rest split between Heads Together, the Royal British Legion and Code Club. The Queen celebrated GCHQ’s centenary earlier this year with a visit to its former top secret base, Watergate House in London.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has been accused by Labour of a “staggering failure” in recruiting people to the armed forces.
Ms Griffith said Penny Mordaunt’s predecessors “completely failed to get to grips with it”.
Speaking in the Commons, Ms Griffith welcomed Ms Mordaunt to her new role and said she was looking forward to working together in areas of “clear consensus”.
“One of those areas is personnel numbers”, the Shadow Defence Secretary said.
“Every service is now smaller than it was at this time last year, the Army alone has seen a drop of 2,000 trained personnel, which is a staggering failure after all the promises we’ve heard at that despatch box.
“Her predecessors completely failed to get to grips with it, so what is she going to do differently to turn things around?”
In response, Ms Mordaunt pointed to the work being done by Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster “to increase recruitment and retention in our armed forces”.
She said: “Part of it is also talking up and explaining what our armed forces do and I sincerely wish that more people followed the Honourable Lady’s lead and did that and supported our armed forces, why they are important to society, why they are important to social mobility and everything this great nation stands for.”
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A series of NHS trusts have been recognised for their commitment to care for the armed forces community as part of an initiative which is working to help “brave veterans win their personal battles” in health. An additional eight hospital trusts have been accredited as ‘Veteran Aware’ by the Veteran Covenant Hospital Alliance (VCHA).
The programme aims to support all NHS trusts to ensure that servicemen and women are never disadvantaged compared to other patients and that all staff are trained on how to support the needs of veterans. The latest accreditations come under the programme’s second wave, meaning there are now a total of 33 trusts on board. The VCHA’s goal is to get every trust on board with the scheme.
Professor Tim Briggs, chair of Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT), which manages the VCHA, said: “These trusts should be very proud of the commitment they have made to the servicemen and women of this country. “Welcoming them into the VCHA is a major step towards our aim of ensuring every NHS trust in the country is Veteran Aware,” said Professor Briggs, who is also the co-chair of the VCHA and NHS national director for clinical improvement.
General Lord Richard Dannatt, patron of the VCHA and former head of the British Army, said: “I am delighted that a second wave of our top hospitals has joined the VCHA. “Although the British Armed Forces are not currently engaged in high profile campaigns such as in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, the health and wellbeing battles for many veterans continue,” he added. “The VCHA is playing a major part in helping our brave veterans win their personal battles,” he said.
To be awarded as ‘Veteran Aware’, each trust has to meet a number of key pledges. They must ensure that the armed forces community is never disadvantaged compared to other patients, in line with the NHS’s commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant. Trusts must also ensure that staff are provided with relevant training on veteran-specific cultures or needs and that they give veterans fair job opportunities.
In addition, trusts must make veterans, reservists and service families aware of the appropriate charities or NHS services beneficial to them, such as mental health services or support with financial or benefit claims. Trusts recognised as Veteran Aware will display posters in their clinics and public waiting areas urging anyone who has served in the armed forces to make themselves known to staff. The latest accreditations were announced at the VCHA annual workshop in Birmingham on 9 May.
For this year’s VCHA annual workshop, around 120 guests from more than 60 trusts attended. The day saw organisations share best practice and learn more about the care needs of members of the armed forces. Following the success of the event, the VCHA hopes to announce two further waves of acute trust accreditations during 2019, as well as agreeing to the Veteran Aware manifestos for ambulance and mental health trusts.
- Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust
- Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust
- Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust
- Weston Area Health NHS Trust
The first wave of trusts to be accredited in 2017 were:
- Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals, Sussex Armed Forces Network;
- Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust;
- City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust;
- Doncaster and Bassetlaw Foundation Trust;
- East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust;
- Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust;
- Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust;
- Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust;
- Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust;
- Norfolk and Norwich NHS Foundation Trust;
- North Bristol NHS Trust;
- North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust;
- Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust;
- North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust;
- Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust;
- Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital NHS Foundation Trust;
- Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust;
- Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust;
- Royal Edinburgh Hospitals, NHS Lothian;
- Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust;
- Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust;
- South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust;
- Cardiff and Vale University Health Board;
- University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
- Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust
With less than one month to go until the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, The Royal British Legion is urging veterans and their families to register for events in Portsmouth and France. D-Day veterans and their families are being encouraged to register for a place at three major events taking place this June in Portsmouth and France to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.
Following the recent announcement that world leaders will be attending the events in Portsmouth, the Legion wants to ensure the additional security and global interest does not deter veterans wishing to attend. Each veteran can be accompanied by a carer, and now up to two family members will also be able to join them but they must register with the Legion for their places.
The Royal British Legion’s Assistant Director for Commemorative Events, Bob Gamble OBE said: “The veterans are, and will be throughout the events in Portsmouth and France, our number one priority and at the heart of everything we do. This will be the last chance we have to host this number of D-Day and Normandy veterans, as we invite world leaders and the nation to pay tribute to the bravery and sacrifices they made 75 years ago. That’s why we’re urging all veterans wishing to attend these events to please register for their place, to make sure that no one misses out on what will be an incredibly moving and poignant occasion.”
Series of Events
The Legion, in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, is leading the UK’s commemorations in France to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. This will involve a series of events in the UK and Normandy including at Bayeux Cathedral and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, Bayeux.
Veterans and their families are being urged to register for the events in Portsmouth and France online at rbl.org.uk/DDay75 These include:
· Southsea Common, Portsmouth, United Kingdom – 5 June
· Bayeux Cathedral, France – 6 June
· Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, Bayeux, France – 6 June
Portsmouth, where much of the landing force sailed from in 1944, will be the focal point of the Ministry of Defence led UK commemorations, along with a service of Remembrance to be held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire for those veterans not able to travel to Normandy.
One veteran who has already signed up to attend is Royal Marine Veteran Jim Healy, who was just 19 years old and a coxswain of a landing craft transporting Canadian troops onto Juno Beach on D-Day. Jim said: “I think it’s important to be a part of The Royal British Legion D-Day 75th Commemorations because I always want to remember the lads that we lost – we actually lost ten of the boats in our 18-strong convoy. I just hope other D-Day veterans who are fit enough to travel do the same.”
The 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings will be a momentous occasion which will be marked internationally. Commonly referred to as D-Day, the Normandy Landings began on 6 June 1944, when allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied Europe.
Information on how to accredit to attend events can be found on The Royal British Legion’s website rbl.org.uk/DDay75 To access information on how the public can attend events in Portsmouth, please visit https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/D-Day-events and check for updates. For a full list of events visit https://www.visitportsmouth.co.uk/d-day-75
Following the Government’s allocation of £10 million to support veterans mental health, through the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, the new Defence Secretary has announced that up to £9 million of this funding will be allocated to mental health and wellbeing activities. She also announced that additional measures will be taken to attract and support applications from organisations run by veterans and that the Trust has funded tools to evaluate such projects to enable those organisations to attract greater funding in the future.
The forthcoming commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings will naturally be a time when people reflect on the enormous sacrifices that were required of British and allied troops to liberate Europe and end the war. The D-Day landings alone accounted for around 10,000 dead and injured, while during the course of the Second World War it is estimated that nearly 400,000 British military personnel lost their lives.
But while the sacrifices made by the men and women who suffered death and physical injury fighting for their country are duly remembered with monuments and frequent services, the experiences of those who suffered less obvious injury, such as mental trauma, are less well appreciated.
“With hindsight, I suspect that, at the time, not enough attention was paid to the mental suffering of many of those who took part in the D-Day landings, and indeed with those who fought throughout the course of the Second World War,” said General Sir Peter Wall, the former head of the British Army, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph. “Thankfully, these days there is a great deal more focus, awareness and understanding about the chronic mental health issues that can arise with the men and women of the Armed Forces who have served in intense combat situations.”
During a long and distinguished Army career stretching back over four decades, Sir Peter, 63, has operational experience of conflicts including former Rhodesia, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and is well aware of the mental challenges of modern soldiering.
Today, instead of dealing with the horrors of the conventional military battlefield, service personnel Increasingly find themselves exposed to a variety of equally challenging scenarios, from identifying mass graves filled with murdered civilians, as was frequently the case in Bosnia, to coping with the deadly effects of home-made bombs, such as those used more recently by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan., as well as the deadly effects of chemical weapons “The nature of warfare has changed significantly since the D-Day landings 75 years ago, but the experience can take a very similar toll on those who are involved in intense combat operations today,” Sir Peter explained.
Now, in his capacity as President of the charity Combat Stress, which caters specifically for the mental health issues faced by members of Britain’s Armed Forces, Sir Peter is calling for the nation to provide better support for military veterans who suffer serious mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as part of its commitment to the military covenant. There is a long-standing Whitehall convention whereby key government departments, such as the NHS, ensure military personnel and veterans are properly treated in recognition of their service to Queen and Country.
David Cameron was even said to planning to enshrine the covenant into law, although in the event his coalition government opted not to pursue the idea. Sir Peter, though, believes the government should be doing more to support military veterans, particularly those suffering from severe mental health issues. “While, as a nation, we talk a good game about the military covenant, at the moment it feels to me as if there is a lack of sincerity in the way we apply it when it comes to tackling mental health problems faced by military personnel,” said Sir Peter. “For a relatively small amount of money we could provide the right level of support for military personnel who suffer from mental health issues as a result of the traumatic experiences they have had on the battlefield.”
Sir Peter is now helping to launch a fundraising campaign on behalf of Combat Stress, which marks its centenary on Sunday May 12, with the aim of raising £10 million to help fund its range of mental health programmes, such as its world-class PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme. In the past year the charity has provided support for nearly 3,500 veterans who have been diagnosed with a range of mental health issues dating back to their time in the military. “The problem with mental health issues is that, unlike physical injuries, they can manifest themselves many years after the event that triggered the trauma in the first place,” explained Sir Peter. “Often we find the problems can arise 10-15 years after the event.”
Recently, though, Combat Stress has been struggling to meet the significant demand for its services after suffering unexpected cuts to its budget. The first blow was a decision by NHS England to discontinue funding residential courses for veterans with mental health issues. In addition the Royal British Legion has reduced its contribution by 20 percent. Sir Peter believes it is both short-sighted and self-defeating to deny charities like Combat Stress proper funding. “A great deal of work has been done by the Forces in recent years to reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues as a result of operations. The trend is towards much earlier diagnosis of these conditions, which is crucial,” he explained. “For the earlier you diagnose mental health issues, the less damage is caused, in terms of an individual’s well-being, their relations with family members and friends, and their economic prospects.”
More effort is spent these days on educating the military on the potential mental stress they might experience when deployed in combat situations, and how to cope with them. “When I joined the Army in 1973, nobody spoke about mental health issues,” said Sir Peter. “Now people are much more aware of the problem.” Consequently, demand for the services provided by charities like Combat Stress is an all time high. The only problem is that, because of budget constraints, the charity is struggling to meet the upsurge in demand.
“Combat Stress provides support that can transform the lives of those affected by mental health issues. In some cases if can even save lives,” said Sir Peter. “But current financial constraints mean that we are not able to meet the requirements of all those that need specialist help from Combat Stress.” At Ease Appeal
This summer marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy.
The commemorations will be one of the biggest mobilisations of the UK Armed Forces in recent years involving the Royal Navy, Army and the RAF.
The plans for the anniversary were first announced in April and include a number of events taking place in Portsmouth from 5 to 9 June.
Her Majesty The Queen will be joined by US President Donald Trump to watch the start of the commemorations on Southsea Common on 5 June.
5 June in the UK
- 11:30am: A D-Day 75 National Commemorative Event will take place on Southsea Common. Veterans will join serving personnel for live music, performances and flypasts. Members of the public will be able to watch on big screens.
- 12:45pm: A Royal Navy frigate will fire a gun salute which will be followed by a flypast of 25 RAF aircraft, past and present, including the Red Arrows and a Spitfire.
- 4:00pm: The Red Arrows will perform a display over Southsea Common.
- 6:25pm: MV Boudicca will set sail from Portsmouth to Normandy with 300 veterans on board, retracing the journey personnel made in 1944. The ship will be escorted by HMS St Albans plus four other Navy vessels. A flotilla will also sail past in salute.
- 7:40pm: The RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will fly over Portsmouth to mark MV Boudicca’s departure.
5 June in France
- 2:00pm (3:00pm local time in France): Personnel from the Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade will drop from RAF Hercules aircraft and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s C-47 Dakota over Sannerville in Normandy. They will be joined by French Army paratroopers to recreate the airborne landings of 1944. 30 Dakota aircraft will drop veterans and reenactors into Normandy.
6 June in the UK
- 10:30am: The National Memorial Arboretum will hold a remembrance service, with coverage of events in France shown on a big screen afterwards. Screens at Southsea Common and Portsmouth Guildhall Square will show events taking place in Bayeux, the first town liberated by the Allies.
6 June in France
- 6:26 am (7:26am local time in France): British Army personnel will mark the exact moment the first British soldier landed on Gold beach with a Lone Piper playing on the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches in Normandy.
- In Ver-Sur-Mer, The Normandy Memorial Trust’s D-Day statue will be inaugurated in the presence of senior leaders, military musicians and Armed Forces personnel.
- Later in the morning: Bayeux Cathedral will host a service, followed by a ceremony at Bayeux War Cemetery featuring a tri-service guard of honour.
- 2:15pm (3:15pm local time in France): British veterans will parade into the square in Arromanches for a series of informal events. There will be music from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force.
- 3:25pm (4:25pm local time in France): Veterans will arrive as music and parachute displays take place plus a Red Arrows flypast and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
- 10:30pm (11:30pm local time in France): Events in Arromanches will conclude with a firework display.
‘What we did was right’: Ex-head of UK armed forces Lord Dannatt on legacy of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars
The Afghanistan and Iraq wars impacted thousands of people in our region. In the first in our week-long series looking at their legacy, reporter Stuart Anderson talks to Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army. Sending troops to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq remains the right decision, according to the former head of the British Army.
Lord Richard Dannatt said the UK had “no option” but to get involved in the 2001-2014 war in Afghanistan, and although joining the US-led coalition in the 2003-2011 Iraq War was more questionable, “on balance” it was the right thing to do. But Lord Dannatt, 68, who lives in Keswick, just south of Norwich, said building a stable and democratic Middle East would remain a difficult, if not impossible, goal.
He said: “Given that the Taliban were controlling the country, providing a safe haven and enabling training camps for Al-Qaeda, I don’t think we had any option but to get involved. “Afghanistan today is still a very troubled place, but now girls can go to school, women can move around, and that’s really important for the development of any country. “The economy is slowly strengthening. It’s their country and it’s up to them, but we’ve given them the chance to lead a better life. “The problem is that once we put our Judeo-Christian boots on their Islamic soil, that can very quickly, through propaganda, turn us from being a part of the solution to part of the problem.”
Lord Dannatt said joining the war in Iraq, however, was not properly justified. He once described it as “a strategic error of biblical proportions” that drew attention away from the shaky peace in Afghanistan, leading to another major British Army deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand province. He said: “In Easter 2002, George W Bush said ‘we’re now going to deal with Saddam Hussein, and Tony Blair said, ‘we’re with you’. “The problem was he had no authority to say that, struggled to get the British people and parliament behind him and ended up justifying the operation on the intelligence of weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist. “What would have been better, with hindsight, is if the Americans and British had continued to invest in the future of Afghanistan, helping to stabilise and strengthen its economy.”
But Lord Dannatt said some regions of Iraq, including Basra, were better places today thanks to the British soldiers who served there. He said: “That has certainly given them better opportunities for the future. On balance, I would say that what we did was right.” Lord Dannatt was chief of the general staff – head of the army – from 2006 to 2009. In 2006 he argued a drawdown of British troops from Iraq was necessary for the army to focus on Afghanistan, and lobbied for better pay and equipment for soldiers. He has also played a crucial role in building up the resources of armed forces charities SSAFA and Help for Heroes, and brokered a deal with the press to allow Prince Harry to serve in Afghanistan for three months.
Lord Dannatt said multi-ethnic countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, which were “artificially created” by European powers in the 20th Century, would never have the same kind of “mature democracy” that exists in the West. He said: “They’re very family-based, tribal-based and clan-based, so you’re always going to have quite a rudimentary democracy in those countries. “They perhaps do work best when there is a strong regime at the centre, but that regime does not have the right to persecute its own people.”
Lord Dannatt said the conflicts had a profound legacy on East Anglia, which saw involvement from the Royal Anglian Regiment, the Light Dragoons, who were based at Swanton Morley, and from RAF Marham. He said the support the region had shown for those who had served – which included a parade for the Light Dragoons in Dereham and a parade for the Royal Anglians in Norwich – was always much appreciated. He said: “It’s something that happens over there but actually it also does affect us over here.
“Those servicemen may well have lost some of their colleagues over a six-month tour. But when you’ve got hundreds of people in the street clapping and cheering and waving flags, they think ‘we were doing this in the name of the people and the people do appreciate it’. And then they march through the city 10 feet tall and think it was worth it. “So whether it’s EDP readers who have put their hand in their pocket for Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion or have turned up on the street to show their appreciation for soldiers in a homecoming parade, thank you and keep it up.” More from Norwich Evening News
Our membership would be very surprised at how St. James’s Branch digital offering has evolved in recent years. Whilst the RBL membership in general, experiences change in some very different ways; largely influenced by issues that weren’t even considered 40 years ago.
The creation of specialist branches, Riders Branches, Cyclist Branches etc. The closure of Clubs and, thankfully, new clubs being created along with the merger of many more. The increase in overseas Branches across the globe, not just enhanced relics from the past, but new Branches established by expat communities and branches created in armed forces communities plus a myriad of other locations.
St James’s Evolution
One of the most important evolutions has been the foresight shown by previous members of the St James’s Branch Committee in developing our online offerings to our 18 thousand (approx) branch members across the globe. Currently, we offer information across four digital platforms, this website and three “Our Man” social media platforms; the links to which you will find on the front news page. The success of these offerings can be measured by the following astonishing figures.
- Over 23 thousand hits per annum across our 4 platforms.
- Over 2 thousand words published every week.
- The St James’s Branch website is updated 3/4 times every week.
- During peak interest, Festival of Remembrance, membership renewals. elections etc. We experience upward of 1 thousand hits per day,
- The 3 “Our Man” platforms are updated 6/7 times every week.
- Any contact made via the Website has a response within 36 hours.
- All of the platforms are monitored 24/7, 365 days a year.
A truly virtual offering in a digital age that welcomes contact and opinion from all members whatever the question.