Defence Secretary Bolsters Support for Armed Forces

A series of new schemes and initiatives, designed to support serving personnel and their families throughout their military careers and beyond, has been announced by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson today. The new package will help the Armed Forces throughout their careers by offering a renewed focus on personal development and creating a support network for those living with significant illness, caring for others. The package will also ramp up support for those leaving the services, including a new transition programme and ID cards for all military leavers so their service to their country can be recognised easily.

New Fund

A new fund will be dedicated to supporting the careers of the spouses and civil partners of those who serve, in recognition of the vital role of families within the military community. This fund follows the success of the MOD’s Spouse Employment Support trial and will facilitate access to vocational training and development opportunities, helping them enter new sectors or self-employment.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

The bravery and dedication of our people is second to none. Whether they are in service, have served, or support the service of a loved one, we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their work in keeping this country safe.

It is only right that we give our Armed Forces every opportunity to develop their skills to reach their potential, while ensuring that their spouses and civil partners are just as valued for the part they play.

PPDP

By the end of 2020, all serving personnel will have access to their own Professional and Personal Development Plan – a new scheme that will enable them to hone the skills they need to succeed throughout their service, and equip them for the next stage in their careers. Providing an extra layer of care for those preparing to leave the military, the new Defence Transition Service will deliver specialist support for serving personnel who are most likely to face challenges as they adjust to civilian life. These individuals will be offered unique solutions to the challenges they face, including help with housing or employment.

Transition

To further support the transition to civilian life, the Defence Secretary also announced that new ID cards will be available to military service leavers shortly. The ID cards will initially be given to everyone leaving the Armed Forces and will give them instant recognition for their service to the country. Those who have already made the transition to civilian life will be able to apply for an ID card in 2019. The cards will allow easy access to the range of support available from the public and charitable sectors, including registering with their local authority for priority healthcare and housing.

The Defence Secretary added:

The vast majority of those who have served in our Armed Forces go on to lead successful and rewarding lives, but it’s important we recognise that the transition is not always smooth. We are dedicated to upholding the support they receive while in uniform as they take this next step, and I’m delighted to be adding an extra helping hand to those most in need.

The challenges that service leavers can face are unique, and I want to make sure that they are fully equipped with the tools to thrive independently, whatever issues they face.


 

POLL: Are Members Of The Armed Forces Heroes?

If you are in the armed forces do people think of you as a hero? Well, apparently, Americans, Germans and Britons feel very differently. A new survey by YouGov asked which members of the armed forces, if any, should be considered heroes. In the US, where half of responders said that everyone serving in the armed forces is a hero, regardless of their role or experience. In Germany, the most common response (30%) was that no members of the armed forces should be described as heroes.

Performed

Britons are split. One third (32%) consider all Armed Forces personnel to be heroes, while another third (31%) believe that only those who have performed particularly brave acts should be described as heroes. The generational difference was also considered. While in Britain and Germany younger people are the most likely to consider all personnel heroes, in the US it is the over 40s. In the UK, 39% of 18-29 year-olds gave this answer – a figure which fell with ever age group down to 27% of 60+ year-olds.

Differences

Older British people were more likely to answer that only those troops who had performed brave acts should be described as heroes (37%). There were also some differences based on gender. Women in the US are substantially more likely than men to consider all the troops heroes, with a 15 percentage point gap between the genders (57% of women vs 42% of men). Both British and American women were more likely than men to consider all military personnel heroes.

It’s now your turn to vote… Who do you think should be described as heroPoll here at Forces.net


 

Galanos House Rides Out

100 years ago, 11-11-1918, the First World War ended, and a new world began. The example and experience of those who lived through it shaped the world we live in today. In 2018 The Royal British Legion is leading the nation in saying Thank You to all who served, sacrificed and changed our world. The Royal British Legion Care Home, Galanos House, community; including veterans, residents, staff, relatives and supporters have come up with a unique way to say “Thank You”.

Unique

At the end of October, Friday 26th – Sunday 28th, they will be aiming to complete a distance of 270 miles; equivalent to riding from Southam to the Armistice Glade, Compeigne, France, where the Armistice was signed nearly 100 years ago. Using state-of-the art static recumbent bikes, (Donated by RBL St James’s Branch), Galanos House will be a hive of pedal power to cover the distance.

“The Galanos House Armistice Ride” will raise funds for the care home’s Amenities Fund, which provides the residents with opportunities (trips, entertainment, personal care support) to further enhance their lives at this multi-award winning RBL Care Home. For further details on how you can support/sponsor or take part in this exciting event, please email  newseditor@rbl-stjames.org.uk or contact Galanos House directly on 01926 812185  Event Information page


 

Join Us

At St. James’s Branch we would be delighted if you are interested in volunteering, whether you’re a member or not.

Non-Members can:-

St James’s Branch Members can:-

  • Take part in all of the above.

In addition, join the St James’s Branch Management Committee, where you will have the opportunity to:-

  • Shape the future of The Royal British Legion’s largest branch (circa 20k members) and influence the decision makers leading the UK’s largest Armed Forces Charity.
  • Enhance your CV; employers appreciate the dedication and drive it takes to be a volunteer.                                                                            
  • Develop your interpersonal skills; debating, resolution and listening to all arguments/opinions have a major impact on your ability to understand new or different concepts.
  • Be heard; new successes, initiatives and perspectives are the lifeblood of a successful team, your ideas will help.
  • Learn; from veterans, business owners and charity workers, an appreciation of learning from history, taking the best ideas forward and finding new opportunities.
  • Enjoy new friendships; our current team are a diverse bunch of characters, who, whilst taking their roles very seriously, never, take themselves too seriously!

We look forward to hearing from you, we particularly encourage applications from those of you who were born after 1987 (though not exclusively!) 

Do contact us now to find out more about supporting the British Legion.

Read more about fundraising for the British Legion on the National website – click here.


 

Armed Forces Pocket Guide to Mental Health

The guide, jointly launched by Samaritans and the Ministry of Defence, gives advice on how to identify signs that someone may be having difficulties, suggests ways of offering support and gives information on where help can be found.

Support Available

All military personnel and reserves, some 200,000 people, will have access to either a hard copy or digital version of the booklet. The guide builds on the range of support already available to service personnel who are struggling with their mental health, including access to specialist mental health medical care, training and education on good mental fitness and the Combat Stress 24-hour Mental Health Helpline.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

Mental health issues can affect anyone and I want to ensure no one in our military suffers in silence. It is vital that service personnel know where to turn to in times of crisis, and this guide will raise awareness of the support available.

By helping our people to spot the early signs that someone may be struggling, we give them the best chance of a full recovery.

Specifically designed to promote peer support amongst those serving, the guide champions “looking after your mates”, and covers:

  • Identifying someone struggling to cope with mental health issues
  • Understanding the complexity of suicide
  • Knowing when to intervene, support and report
  • Where to get further support, including the Samaritans service, whose volunteers are available any time, via phone and email or in person at the charity’s 201 branches, and the recently launched Combat Stress 24/7 Military Mental Health Helpline

Joint Initiative

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said:

While military mental health continues to be slightly better than the general population, we’re committed to ensuring that those who need help are able to get the support they need.

This guide, alongside our extra investment in mental health care and the 24-hour Mental Health Helpline, will be invaluable in helping our people to help each other.

Samaritans and the MOD have announced several joint initiatives to offer training and support to serving personnel, veterans and their families who are struggling with mental health issues. The Samaritans programme has been funded by £3.5m from LIBOR, and the guide is the latest part of this programme. A separate booklet is set to be launched for veterans, and the wider military community. The next stage of the project will include the launch of other peer support tools, specially designed training courses for military personnel and a confidential webchat service. Training for Samaritans volunteers on how address mental health in a military environment will also be introduced.

Samaritans CEO, Ruth Sutherland, said:

Samaritans is committed to bringing the expertise we have gained in training people to provide peer support to the military, in order to prevent suicides. This is the first step in a journey to provide a variety of support for serving personnel, veterans, reservists and their families.

The booklet will also help personnel spot signs that colleagues may be having suicidal thoughts and provides information on how such a situation should be approached, and where support is available.

Mental Fitness

The number of military personnel who take their lives continues to be below rates for the general population, with the military rate of suicide being 8 per 100,000, in 2017, compared to 18 per 100,000 in the general population in 2016. The Ministry of Defence is now spending £220 million over the next decade to improve mental health services for serving personnel. In February of this year, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson also announced the establishment of a 24-Hour Mental Health Helpline for serving personnel and their families, funded by the MOD and run by the charity Combat Stress. The MOD’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy is designed to encourage all members of the armed forces to recognise the importance of mental fitness and encourages individuals to seek support if they are struggling with their mental health.


 

Armed Forces Day with a Warbird, RAF100 1/4/1918-2018

“Our Man” from St James’s received a “bucket list” gift from his family eighteen months ago, a flight in a Spitfire at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford on Armed Forces Day. To celebrate RAF 100, this is his report on what was a very surprising day. Ed.

Inspirational

A drive eastwards into Cambridgeshire is a very pleasant experience, especially early in the morning on a Saturday in mid-June. With memorials and remembrance being closer to the public consciousness than ever, a trip into the eastern UK offers some inspirational opportunities to embrace remembrance whilst acknowledging that no-one escapes its effect or has nothing to contribute in the support of our Armed Forces and Allies.

Cambridgeshire has a long and proud history as a location for the Military and our Allies, including, their commemoration and remembrance. Non more so than my first surprise, coming across the magnificent Cambridge American Cemetery at Coton. Donated by Cambridge University, this site was dedicated on July 16th 1956 (60th Anniversary next month) to provide a burial ground for American personnel in perpetuity. My early arrival meant it was closed, nonetheless, worth the return journey in the near future.

Warbird Heaven

Arrival at IWM Duxford was a quiet affair, (it opens at 10.00 AM) only staff and student warbird pilots are allowed in early. I was given my orders by a very happy man at the gate. “Great day for it, turn left, go to the end of the hangar, turn right, drive to the control tower, park up, Nicky will meet you.” She did, and was as happily efficient as all our previous communications had suggested, when she laid out the schedule of the morning. My second surprise came during the briefings, when every new risk I was about take was explained and followed by Nicky saying, “you can of course opt out at any stage, right up to sitting in the aircraft!” I didn’t, and was fitted for my flightsuit, shown how to adjust it to my waist then ushered off to see “my kite” and pilot.

In all honesty, I had already seen “my kite” along with other members of the Classic Wings fleet. A D.H. Chipmunk, Dragon Rapides, Tiger Moths, a T6 Harvard and, of course, the Spitfire; an aircraft that was first seen by the Great British public on 27th June 1936 at RAF Hendon (80 years ago on Monday). The T9 Spitfire ticked all my particular boxes, it had seen action, it had all the right elliptical curves, beautiful camouflage scheme, a Merlin engine and, most importantly, a rear seat for me. Time to meet the pilot.

Legend

"Our Man" and Anna Walker

“Our Man” and Anna Walker

Rarely, do you meet someone, who you can have complete confidence in from the start. My third surprise came in the inspirational form of Anna Walker who is somewhat of a legend in warbird circles, a pilot as a teenager, a certified display pilot, experienced in aerobatic and formation flying, film and TV work, the list is very long and distinguished. My fourth, came in the knowledge that she is an expert on The Air Transport Auxiliary and believed to be the only female Hawker Hurricane pilot since the 1940’s. Safe hands indeed.

Anna did my pre-flight briefing at the Spitfire including, what not and what to touch, what we would be doing and what we wouldn’t and, my absolute favourite, it would be my choice as to whether the flight would include a victory roll. I decided it…

Warbirds are go 

From closing the canopy, it was very powerful experience, the sound of a Merlin engine 20ft away and any view with a Spitfire wing in the foreground is enough to make anyone cheer loudly and drown out the engine.  Once airborne, the exhilaration was interrupted by a list of questions, how did WW2 pilots cope, how did they manage to spot other aircraft and were they always in a state of such heightened senses? The answers came in a radio call from Anna asking me if I would like to take control? I took control (marginally), I coped (a sunny day over England for pure pleasure), I spotted a few (nowhere near as many as Anna) and I have never felt so chuffed with the world and life.

High over the tree lined avenues leading to the Wimpole Estate, we completed two life affirming wingovers and then came the decision…. my victory roll, we did it, it felt glorious and despite wanting to shout and cheer, I was speechless. Anna explained calmly that it was time to return to Duxford and that we would be doing one final flypast and wing waggle over the airfield. My last, in a day of surprises, was perfect; as we joined the circuit I could see two Tiger Moths on the move and my warbird pilot told the air-traffic controller to keep them still or we would open fire! He chuckled and as we started our flypast I heard in my headset very quietly,“dakadakadakadaka” I think!

A lot of what followed was a bit of a blur. I remember chatting to some of the Classic Wings team and seeing the passion, pride and love they have for these marvellous machines; reminding me, that is important to remember how the brave members of our services went into battle and the enormous character that was needed.

My enormous thanks go to Nicky Jiggins and the Classic Wings Team, aviatrix extraordinaire Anna Walker and Cambridgeshire for getting on my “bucket list.”

“Our Man”

 

I have heard that “Our Man” will only believe this all happened when the DVD arrives. Ed.