Residents and Staff enjoy Armed Forces Day…
Today is about raising public awareness and showing our support of all the contribution made to our country by all the men and women who serve and have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
Last week, our ARBD Residents in Weston Super Mare, attended the Weston Air Festival, supporting Armed Forces Day. They enjoyed a full programme of air displays, which included the world-renowned Royal Air Force aerobatic team, The Red Arrows; they performed a thrilling precision flying display, featuring their trademark formations, close-passes and dynamic loops and rolls. The town’s Armed Forces Day celebrations took place with military exhibitions, displays and a freedom march, organised by Weston Town Council.
Steve Todd, our manager at Vane Hill ARBD Home, has shared his Armed forces experience;
I joined the army at the age of 15, in 1970. My first posting was with the Junior Infantryman’s Battalion in Shorncliffe camp, Folkestone, Kent. This was a very new experience for me after being in the Army Cadets for a few years. After 3 days, I was homesick wanting to go back home to Plymouth, because, to be honest, it was a big shock to my system and that people were shouting at me, so I had a talk with the Padre who told me that I could be a good leader and should stay, so I did and after a few weeks I was awarded the white armband, which meant I could march other Junior Soldiers around. After 3 months I was given my first stripe, after 6 months my second and then after 9 months I was made up to Junior Sergeant. I had a knack for teaching new recruits, so until I passed out from Juniors to Adult, I took care of them.
In 1972 I left the boys Army and went to my Battalion, the 1st Battalion Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, where I was based in Gillingham in Kent again. My first official posting as a young 17 year old was Kenya, but not on active service; I trained for 6 months, learning about desert/jungle warfare. I reached the age of 18 and was sent to Northern Ireland for the first time on active service. We had trained for months leading up to being sent to Northern Ireland, so I was physically ready but not mentally; as I can remember the very rough crossing across the Irish sea and then arriving at Belfast docks with my rifle over the side of the ship thinking this is very funny, why is there 5 red double decker buses on the dock waiting? That can’t be for us, we are at war, we need something with armour plating, but they were for us and the buses took us 20 miles to our camp; an old hotel called Woodburn camp, which was surrounded by high corrugated fences with barbed wire and look out posts. We went through the gates and within 20 minutes I was on my Patrol as a Private Soldier and, believe this or not, I was put in charge of the first patrol at the age of 18, with other soldiers older than me, because of my past Junior Soldier rank.
My First Patrol was very quiet; there were no problems, just lots of dogs trained to bite us. However a few days later we were 10 minutes into the patrol in west Belfast, when we saw a few girls standing on the corner of a garage complex, we went to investigate and a small package was thrown at my patrol, I gave out the order to take cover and there was a very loud bang and the smell of cordite, which is used in fireworks. Getting over the buzzing in my ears, I started to check if my patrol were ok, however before we had time to think, an IRA sniper was taking pot shots above our heads. We returned fire, it was then procedure to carry out what was called a hot pursuit, in other words, we went after the enemy, we did not catch him or her, but saw where the firing came from. We carried on with patrol, but my arm was itching; I got back to camp and I noticed a small cut in my flak jacket (Bullet Proof Jacket) which I then discovered a 6 inch nail sticking out of my arm, which came from the nail bomb that had gone off on the patrol. I went to the medical centre and the medical officer produced a pair of pliers and pulled the nail out, stitched my arm up and I was straight out onto patrol.
The remainder of my tour of duty was peaceful, just a few gun fire incidents, but I managed to get through the 4 months without further injury.
I was sent back to Ireland a further 2 times, then to Cyprus with the United Nations, and then to south America Belize, all on active service. I and left the service in 1979 as a Sergeant and joined the Somerset Ambulance service working at the Minehead Ambulance station.
I enjoyed my time in the forces and would not have swapped it for any other life. I learnt a great deal from a very young age and this has helped me in later years. Now working for Notaro homes for the past 24 years, with alcohol related brain damaged residents of all ages, who some have also been in the services, my experience of discipline is helpful to guide my residents to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.