Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report outlines stepped up support

The annual Armed Forces Covenant Report, published today, sets out the Government’s achievements in fulfilling its duty to ensure the military community is treated fairly, and not disadvantaged by their service.

It also highlights the new commitments made by the UK Government and its partners in the devolved administrations, local government and the charitable sector and how, through collaboration, they are able to deliver effective support.

Key accomplishments include:

  • £23 million of Service Pupil Premium payments made to support 76,000 service children in 10,000 primary and secondary schools across England
  • The launch of the Armed Forces Flexible Working Act, enhancing service personnel’s ability to serve part-time, should personal circumstances change
  • Plans to launch the Defence Transition Policy shortly, improving the holistic support available to service personnel and their families when leaving the services and returning to civilian life
  • Over 3,000 businesses and organisations have now signed the Armed Forces Covenant, pledging to support and empower former and current service personnel and their families
  • The launch of the first UK-wide ‘Strategy for our Veterans’, to improve the delivery of support to those who have served

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Minister Tobias Ellwood said:

This year, we have stepped up support across Government for those who have served our country, those who continue to serve, and their loved ones.

Today’s report shows the fantastic progress that has been made, promoting mental fitness across the military community, supporting service families, and reaching the 3,000th signing of the Covenant.

But it also sets out the work still to be done to ensure our armed forces are given every opportunity to thrive, throughout their careers, and as they transition into civilian life. As we look forward to 2019, we will continue to provide the best care possible for our people.

Further support delivered this year includes:

Service families

  • The MOD has allocated £5 million to the Education Support Fund, extending it for two years
  • £2.5 million was awarded by the Covenant Fund Trust to projects that support military families, under the ‘Families in Stress’ programme
  • £68 million was invested in the improvement of service family accommodation

Health and wellbeing

  • The MOD increased its spending on mental health for service personnel to £22 million a year
  • A new 24-hour mental health helpline for serving personnel, operated by Combat Stress was launched
  • £10 million was awarded to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, to support mental fitness among veterans
  • The launch of NHS England’s Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service


Fresh Veterans Support Launched In UK-Wide Strategy

A new strategy to support armed forces veterans has been released across the UK for the first time. ‘Strategy for our Veterans’ will include considering adding a new question to the 2021 census to help understand the needs of veterans. Ex-service personnel will be able to declare their military service under plans being proposed. It is thought that information gathered may provide a better understanding of where veterans live and work so they can receive the right support.


The proposal is part of a package of measures being developed to support the veteran community. The plan has been jointly produced by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments. It identifies six areas where support for veterans is most needed over the next decade: community and relationships, employment and skills, health and well-being, finance and debt, housing, and contact with the law. The Veterans’ Gateway, a consortium of organisations and armed forces charities, will trial a new outreach project through its 24/7 helpline service where veterans will be called to check on their well-being.


Newly published research commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and the Forces in Mind Trust has revealed the public’s perceptions of veterans in society. The government said that while ex-service personnel were seen to embody “loyalty and self-discipline”, common misconceptions placed them as “more likely to be institutionalised or suffer from mental health issues”.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“While the vast majority of veterans thrive in civilian life, we have a responsibility to ensure that any who do struggle as a result of their service – whether finding a job, getting on the property ladder or with mental health issues – get the support they need.”

He said the coordination of services across charities, local authorities and business would help ensure “no-one is left behind”.


First Class Mail for the Armed Forces Covenant

Ministry of Defence Main Building, Horse Guards Avenue.

The Ministry of Defence and the Post Office have agreed a new partnership to support veterans entering employment, as the company became the 3000th organisation to sign the Armed Forces Covenant.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise from the nation to those who serve or who have served, and their families, that they should be treated fairly and are not disadvantaged in their day-to-day lives. As part of their pledge, the Post Office will encourage ex-service personnel to apply for vacancies, offer bespoke training and support reservists and cadet volunteers with their commitments.


The signing took place at a Service of Remembrance to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, attended by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Group CEO of the Post Office, Paula Vennells.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

The Post Office has a long and distinguished history with the Armed Forces and it is fitting they are the 3000th signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant.

Those who have served our country so courageously deserve the full support of organisations and businesses across the public and private sector.

Today, the Post Office has demonstrated the value that reservist and ex-service personnel can bring to businesses.


From today, the Post Office will work with the MOD’s Career Transition Partnership (CTP) to facilitate employment for former service personnel by advertising their vacancies on the CTP’s website. They will also offer a specialist training programme, commit to hiring a certain number of veterans, and offer paid leave for reservists and time off for any deployment commitments.

Alongside this, they will support the Cadet Force by granting adult volunteers five days paid leave for their annual camp and establish a new Post Office Armed Forces Network for those with links to the military.

Paula Vennells, Group CEO of Post Office, said:

It’s a real honour to sign the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the Post Office at this very special service, recognising the value that our serving personnel, both Regular and Reservists, veterans and military families contribute in the present to our business and our country.

We know that having a diverse workforce brings huge benefits to a business; and our ex-Armed Forces colleagues and those in the Reserves are a unique and vital asset to the Post Office. We want to thank them for their service and to ensure that we continue to create a business in which everyone can thrive and develop as part of the Post Office team.


The signing took place at St Botolph’s-Without-Aldersgate Church in central London – a poignant location as inside the Church is a dedicated memorial and battle flag of the Post Office Rifles, the General Post Office’s own battalion, who served with distinction, earning high praise and a prestigious place in British military history. More than 75,000 General Post Office employees left their roles to fight in the War, with 12,000 joining the Post Office Rifles.

The Armed Forces Covenant was established in 2011, is a whole of government responsibility, and includes signatories from across organisations, businesses and charities. Support is provided in a number of areas, including education, starting a new career and access to healthcare.

Minster for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood added:

Our Armed Forces are one of the most professional forces in the world. Our people are brave, disciplined and natural leaders.

Organisations such as the Post Office can thrive by taking advantage of these transferable skills. I encourage more businesses to sign up.


Drawing on the Past

The mum-of-three, from Northampton, took 12 painstaking weeks to create 637 poignant pencil drawings of those who have died since 2000. She worked from a list from the Ministry of Defence and contacted the families of those killed to complete the project. Sam said: “I did it because these soldiers needed to be remembered.


“I work in a school and I speak to student’s every day and you can see they aren’t wearing the poppy ahead of Remembrance Day. “They just see war as a collection of old grey images, not connected with reality. “I wanted to do something to help them appreciate the sacrifices made by service personnel both past and present. “This is the first time anyone has done anything like this and it’s to show these people were loved and their memories are perpetuated – it’s important to remember them.


“And it’s not just to honour those who have died, it’s to help their family and friends, those that came back with PTSD can see that their comrades are honoured”. “It was all self-funded and many of the families of those that died sent me pictures that were different to those released by the Ministry of Defence.


“When a soldier died the family used to only get 24 hours to provide a statement and a picture, otherwise, a picture that the army had would be used. “The reason that the portraits can be so powerful is that it is the families themselves that have had time to provide the pictures after reflection. “Members of the families would say things like ‘you have caught his eyes’.


“Sometimes the family would send three, four or five pictures so I ended drawing well over 500 sketches and I still had my full-time teaching job to do as well. “I don’t know how I managed to get through it but I started posting the first four pictures on Facebook and I did not think that anyone would be interested. “Then the family of Fusilier Samuel Flint-Broughton got in touch to say he would have been 25 the week I drew it – they put it into a memory box on his birthday for his mother. “At one point I was drawing 27 pictures a day. It was overwhelming to do it over the 12 weeks but I managed to complete it and I’m proud of the finished results.”

Sam’s drawings formed part of a military art exhibition and have now been compiled into two books with the proceeds going to the Royal British Legion.


Where there’s a Will……….there’s a question!


Our Man

As many of you know, we occasionally let “Our Man” out on special assignment. Here are his musings from his trip for Remembrance 2018. Editor




The period of remembrance polarises opinion on many topics every year; what side should I wear my poppy, do I have to wear one, can it be white one, is it glorifying war, should we still remember etc? The Royal British Legion’s answer is always reassuringly the same. 


“There is no right or wrong way to wear a poppy. It is a matter of personal choice whether an individual chooses to wear a poppy and also how they choose to wear it. The best way to wear a poppy is to wear it with pride.” After all, choice has always been the by-product of freedom whether it be on a personal level or as a nation choosing to celebrate its customs and traditions in a particular way.



The choice to remember and say thank you was grasped with both hands last weekend as my arrival at RBL Galanos House in Warwickshire demonstrated. Many of you will recall that the committee of our branch, RBL St James’s had agreed to purchase two recumbent static bikes for a fundraising event and to further enhance the fitness and rehabilitation options for all the residents.



I arrived to see the first two riders setting off in the spacious foyer facing the Galanos House Choir singing “Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.” and over the three days I witnessed all manner of joys. The Galanos House Armistice Ride, conceived by the GH Volunteer Team, aimed to complete a distance of 270 miles (as the poppy seed blows) over the three days as part of the RBL ThankYou Campaign and celebrating the launch of the 2018 Poppy Appeal. Equivalent to travelling from GH in Southam, Warwickshire to the Armistice Glade in Compiegne, France; the location where the WW1 Armistice was signed in 1918. 


The success was, as with all things GH, enormous; 47 riders, 540 miles completed and £2,600 (currently) to support the Galanos House Amenities Fund. Well done to you all, the younger riders had reminded me I had an appointment with one of my younger family members, William, to answer some questions he had referring to a school project on Remembrance.

Questions Answered (Hopefully!)


The centenary marking the ending of WWI has, in no small measure, offered up many opportunities to rekindle the interest of the younger generation in Remembrance, its roots and its future. I have tried to answer young Will’s (6 yrs old) questions in the order they were asked; obviously, if any of you wanted to share your thoughts on these topics feel very free.

Q.1 How do they make that many poppies?


Sadly, to my mind anyway, gone are the days when RBL members, along with their families, were part of cottage industry supporting the assembling of poppies at home every Autumn.


Today poppies are made at the Poppy Factory who are proud to say ” Our factory in Richmond employs around 30 wounded, injured and sick veterans to produce the poppies and wreaths for the Royal Family and The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal – something we have been doing since we were founded in 1922.”

The factory makes 36 million poppies every year, however, throughout the year it also supports veterans with and into employment.


The demand for poppies in England was so high that few were reaching Scotland. Earl Haig’s wife established the ‘Lady Haig Poppy Factory’ in Edinburgh in 1926 to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland.


Over 5 million Scottish poppies (which have four petals and no leaf unlike poppies in the rest of the UK) are still made by hand by disabled ex-Servicemen at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory each year and distributed by our sister charity Poppyscotland.

This factory is operated in partnership with Poppyscotland and, like the Poppy Factory in Richmond, also employs ex-service personnel, all disabled, making five million remembrance poppies in Edinburgh each year and 12,000 wreaths.

Q.2 How do we remember soldiers names?


Members of our Armed forces all used to have a Rank and serial number associated with their name. The rank implies the responsibility and special skills of that person whilst the serial number is a way of identifying that person amongst a larger group of service people. These details helped to identify which part of the Army, Navy, Royal Flying Corps and other support services (ie theRed Cross) a serviceman/woman belonged to.


It is usually possible to find out where or what a particular unit was doing on any day during a conflict. Personal diaries from service personnel can often identify individuals more accurately. All units/branches, whenever possible, reported every day on the events they had been involved in. These days, as many of our members know, there is a concerted effort to check and re-check all the available records to make sure no-one is forgotten.

Q.3 Why are Poppies so special? 


Poppies are special to everyone in a different way; they remind us of someone, remind us to remember the past and take the best of it into the future. However, as you will see below a lot of its appeal was arrived at by happenstance.


Bright red Flanders poppies, however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of chaos and destruction. In early May 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now-famous poem called ‘In Flanders Fields‘.


McCrae’s poem inspired an American academic, Moina Michael, to make and sell red silk poppies which were brought to England by a French woman, Anna Guérin. The (Royal) British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of these poppies and sold them on 11 November that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and that first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’ raised over £106,000; a considerable amount of money at the time. This was used to help WW1 veterans with employment and housing.

Q.4 How do the Poppies fall from the ceiling at the Festival of Remembrance?


I have tried to find out how this happens with no success. In a way I am pleased. When I was lucky enough to attend the Festival of Remembrance, I was looking forward to witnessing this moment. As the Two Minute Silence started, poppy petals fluttered down from the dark at the Royal Albert Hall. I heard the petals flutter and land on the assembled guard of honour below. Perhaps, a thousand whispers from the past saying “Thank you for remembering us.”?

Q.5 How long did the Poppies take to grow in the battlefields?


The factual answer is “Its seeds need light to grow, so when they’re buried in the earth, they can lay dormant for 80 years or even longer by some accounts, without blooming. Once the soil is disturbed and the seeds come to light, poppies nobody knew existed can then bloom.” My answer would be ” They lay hidden until they had a chance to bloom, showing us that there is still hope and beauty in the world”

Rethink Remembrance


A while ago the Royal British Legion urged us to “Rethink Remembrance”, thanks to some wonderful questions from 6-year-old Will, I now understand what they meant. Thanks Wills, see you soon.





The Wipers Times

Welsh singer Aled Jones is to make a special guest appearance in the charity gala performance of Ian Hislop and Nick Newman‘s play The Wipers Times on Remembrance Sunday 11 November at 6pm at the Arts Theatre, London in support of The Royal British Legion’s Thank You campaign.


He will be performing Silent Night with members of The Wipers Times acting company. The arrangement of Silent Night is taken from Aled’s new album (with Russell Watson) In Harmony which is released on 9th November. There will be other surprise cameo appearances during the show. The evening will also include an introduction, post-show talk and Q & A with Ian and Nick and an exclusive post-show reception. This special performance coincides with the commemoration of the end of WWI.

Thank You

The Royal British Legion has launched a mass movement to say ‘Thank You’ to all who served, sacrificed, and changed our world during the First World War. The charity is calling on mass involvement from the public to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. Many events have been organised in the run-up to 11 November to say ‘Thank You’ to those who put Britain on the path to becoming what it is today.


Ian Hislop and Nick Newman‘s The Wipers Times – a stage adaptation of their award-winning BBC film – tells the true and extraordinary story of the satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Somme, interspersed with comic sketches and spoofs from the vivid imagination of those on the front line. In a bombed out building during the First World War in the Belgian town of Ypres (mispronounced Wipers by British soldiers), two officers discover a printing press and create a newspaper for the troops. Far from being a somber journal about life in the trenches they produced a resolutely cheerful, subversive and very funny newspaper designed to lift the spirits of the men on the frontline.


Defying enemy bombardment, gas attacks and the disapproval of many of the top Brass, The Wipers Times rolled off the press for two years and was an extraordinary tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity. The production originally launched one hundred years after the Battle of the Somme and publication of The Wipers Times.

For tickets to this special performance go to:

The Wipers Times runs at the Arts Theatre until 1 December.


Full list of beaches named for WW1 ‘Pages of the Sea’ commemoration

Artist’s impression of a sand portrait for ‘Pages of the Sea’ (Image © 14-18 NOW)

The final list of beaches for Danny Boyle’s Armistice commission Pages of the Sea has been announced. On 11 November 2018, people are invited to gather on 31 beaches across the UK and in the Republic of Ireland to remember the men and women who left their communities to serve in the First World War.  


The public is invited to beaches at low-tide on the day to take part in a series of community-led events. A large-scale portrait of a casualty from the First World War, designed by sand artists Sand in Your Eye will be drawn into the sand in many locations and washed away as the tide comes in. In addition, the public will be asked to join in by creating silhouettes of people on the beaches, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the conflict. 


Poet Carol Ann Duffy has been invited by Boyle – the stage and film director responsible for the opening ceremony for London’s 2012 Olympic Games – to write a new poem which will read aloud as people gather. Copies of the poem will be available online and at the participating beaches around the UK for those who wish to come together or to offer their own personal contribution. 

The work is the culmination of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for First World War centenary commemoration, and is delivered in conjunction with arts foundations, theatres and other partner organisations across the UK and Ireland. It is supported by the National Lottery and the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

Final list of Beaches



Giant poppy made in Somerset features more than 1 million names of those who died in WWI

A giant poppy has been made in Somerset featuring the names of the 1,115,471 servicemen and women who died in the first World War.


The Poppy of Honour is on display in Wincanton and will tour the county before going to London and Belgium next year.

It contains the names and ranks of every British and Commonwealth serviceman and woman who was lost in World War One – all hand-written on individual poppies.

Mammoth Project

It was the idea of Terry Williams, from Henstridge, who said: “I was shocked that there was no national memorial where the names are recorded, they are only recorded on memorials in every village, town and city.” The 2.6m tall poppy is made of glass and steel. It was a mammoth project and one which saw more than a quarter of a million people from dozens of countries help. The Poppy of Honour will tour Somerset in November – taking in nineteen different locations around the county. It’ll then tour the UK and the Republic of Ireland in February 2019 followed by the Tower of London and the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

Here are the dates of the Poppy of Honour’s tour of Somerset in November 2018:

  • 1st November – Frome
  • 2nd November – Midsomer Norton
  • 3rd November – Shepton Mallet
  • 4th November – Wells
  • 5th November – Weston-Super-Mare
  • 6th November – Bridgwater
  • 7th November – Burnham-on-Sea
  • 8th November – Minehead
  • 9th November – Simonsbath
  • 10th November – Temple Met/Church, Taunton
  • 11th November – Wiveliscombe
  • 12th November – Wellington
  • 13th November – Bishop’s Lydeard
  • 14th November – Taunton
  • 15th November – Ilminster
  • 16th November – Chard
  • 17th November – Crewkerne
  • 18th November – Langport
  • 19th November – Yeovil


RBLI announces first mass participation event

Royal British Legion Industries is launching its first mass participation event in its 100-year history: a 24-hour run called the RBLI Zenith24.

In preparation for its centenary celebrations next year, RBLI has partnered with Tri Spirit Events to launch the RBLI Zenith24, which will see participants race solo, in pairs or in teams, with the goal to complete as many laps of Kent’s Hole Park estate as they can in 24 hours to raise funds for the charity. The event takes place from midday Saturday 22 June until midday Sunday 23 June 2019. There are also 10k races, with one taking place during the day and one at night.

There will also be a special corporate event with separate prizes and honours for company teams, and camping is available from Friday to Monday, which is free for competitors and spectators.

RBLI chief executive and former Brigadier Steve Sherry CMG OBE, said:

“As a charity which has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over the course over its near 100-year history, RBLI is incredibly excited to announce the first of our centenary celebrations to take place next year with Tri Spirit .

“Without doubt, RBLI Zenith24 will be a gruelling challenge but, ultimately, an immensely rewarding one to take part in, with each participant knowing that they will play a direct role in supporting some of our nation’s ex-service personnel who are in desperate need of support.”


250,000 veterans helped into new careers

The Ministry of Defence’s Career Transition Partnership celebrates its 20th anniversary. In the two decades since its launch, a quarter of a million service leavers have been supported in the next stage of their careers by the Career Transition Partnership (CTP), a partnership between the MOD and Right Management Ltd.


The CTP offers one-to-one career guidance, vocational training, events, networking and employment opportunities to serving personnel for up to two years before they leave the Armed Forces, supporting them as they prepare to enter the civilian workplace or further education. Benefitting from training in interview techniques and CV development, as well as targeted workshops designed to identify and harness an individual’s strengths, 93% of service leavers transitioning through the CTP who are seeking employment, are in new roles within six months.

Ex-serving personnel can also access CTP support for two years after they have transitioned back into civilian life, ensuring the adjustment process is as smooth as possible.

Tobias Ellwood, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, said:

Our Armed Forces develop invaluable, lasting and transferrable skills during their service, and it is right that we support them to reach their potential when they leave.

With admirable qualities such as leadership, dedication and team work, those who have served are an asset to any organisation. The Career Transition Partnership team plays an ever more vital role in helping our people navigate the many opportunities open to them.

The CTP also provides specialist training to those who leave service early through the Future Horizons programme, which has supported 11,500 personnel since its introduction in 2008. A further specialised career programme, CTP Assist, supports approximately 900 wounded, injured and sick service leavers per year to achieve a sustainable and fulfilling career, regardless of time served. The CTP offers a wide range of vocational training courses to enhance qualifications gained in the military or to retrain for a new career. Courses in fields such as finance, project management, IT and health and safety, and are designed around the needs of service leavers and to connect with routes to employment.


The CTP Employment Team is focussed on engaging with local SMEs and national employers to create unique pathways into employment and ensuring organisations take a strategic approach to integrate military talent into their workforce planning. The CTP is currently working closely with a broad range of employers such as Amazon, Barclays, Jaguar Land Rover, BAE Systems, and Openreach to align the wealth of transferable skills and experiences service leavers have. Along with online career resettlement guides, personnel can also access advice on wider aspects of the transition process, including housing and pensions, managing finances, and moving abroad. This guidance is part of the broader support on offer to personnel to bridge the gap between military and civilian life.

The CTP is the first example of a military resettlement service provided by a partnership of private, public and charitable organisations, anywhere in the world. The model, established by the partnership between the MOD and Right Management Ltd, is supported by RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity who deliver CTP’s employment support, and is at the forefront of best international practice.

David Duffy, Right Management Ltd, Contract Director for Career Transition Partnership, said:

I am proud that Right Management have delivered a world-class resettlement provision on behalf of the MOD for two decades, helping to bridge the gap between military and civilian careers and connecting Armed Forces personnel to jobs. CTP staff are extremely committed and passionate about the part they play in supporting service leavers and this is evident in the remarkable achievements we have made.

The working landscape has changed beyond all recognition since we started, with an ever more transient marketplace and technology, along with social media, driving change at pace. Despite this, the CTP has stayed at the forefront of delivery, keeping pace with change and continually adapting to meet the needs of our service leavers.