Ex-Forces help unit launched by mayor

A NEW support group for ex-Forces personnel and their families has been officially launched in Bury.

“In Step” aims to assist all former members of the Army, Royal Navy and RAF by giving social, emotional and practical support as well as directing people to agencies which can advise on issues such as housing, employment and training.

The new group was launched at the Fusilier Museum in Bury by the Mayor of Bury, Cllr Sharon Briggs. One of its links will be with members of Burnley Ex-Servicemen’s Club.

Behind “In Step” is its co-ordinator Babs Allen. She said: “For a long time, I have had it in my heart to start a support group aimed specifically at ex-Forces and their families, especially as I have come to realise that nothing has radically changed since my husband left the Forces in 1976.

“In fact, once a person has left the Forces they are very much on their own, cut off from their friends, the camaraderie, discipline, culture and ethos of the Armed Forces, which is an introspective and self-sufficient world geared to self-discipline, obedience and working as a close-knit team.

“My husband served 12 years in the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps), our eldest son four years in the RAOC (Royal Army Ordnance Corps), my brother 18 years in the Lancashire Fusiliers (now 2RRF) and myself in the TA as an army nurse.

“We have lived in Malaysia, Germany and Wiltshire so, as an Army wife of nine years, my husband having already served three years when we married, I am well aware of the upheaval that Army life has on families and how stressful the adjustment to ‘Civvie Street’ can be.”

Mrs Allen added: “We believe that by giving ex-Forces personnel the opportunity to come together to support one another, especially socially, we can reinforce a new sense of identity by easing the transition from the structured life of the services and so helping them to adjust to civilian life more easily.

“Sometimes it can be soul-destroying and lonely leaving behind friends and comrades, so we’re hoping to rebuild that strong support framework and have lots of ideas of how do it.”

She said the Fusilier Museum’s general manager, Helen Smith, and Colonel Mike Glover, of the Fusilier Association, had been “really enthusiastic” in their support for the group.

“We now have links into Bury Armed Forces Community Covenant Steering Group where several Forces-specific agencies, council and serving soldiers are working together to ensure our Forces get the help they need and deserve,” she added.

• Anyone with a Forces connection is welcome to join “In Step” which meets every second Monday from 11am to 1pm in the cafeteria of The Fusilier Museum. For further information: contact Babs Allen on 0161 368 7037 or email babs.john@talktalk.net


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