The Soldiers' Charity in Herefordshire

PUBLISHED: 10:51 06 January 2011 | UPDATED: 18:08 20 February 2013

Off to war: Saying farewell before deployment to Afghanistan. The Soldiers’ Charity looks after servicemen and women and their families

Off to war: Saying farewell before deployment to Afghanistan. The Soldiers’ Charity looks after servicemen and women and their families

An army of volunteers is being raised in Herefordshire to support The Soldiers' Charity, says Chris Poole

Foot soldiers wanted

An army of volunteers is being raised in Herefordshire to support The Soldiers Charity, says Chris Poole

I asked whether with a prosthetic I would be able to run, play tennis and ski. When the reply came yes I responded, thats fine then.

This was Captain Kate Philp describing the decision on amputation of her left leg. She had been commanding an armoured vehicle in Afghanistan when it ran over a mine.

Most of us cannot imagine suffering such terrible injury. Or having to make a decision on treatment like Kates. If we do it might be because of accidental injury caused by a momentary lapse in concentration or judgment.

But our soldiers suffer because someone is deliberately trying to maim or kill them. The countrys service personnel put themselves in harms way every day when on active service as Major General Arthur Denaro put it recently. They do so knowing the risks of injury or death in order to protect the countrys interests. They, and their families, need our help when the worst happens.

There is, of course, a plethora of military charities, all of which seek to attract and channel our support to where it is most needed. One of them is ABF The Soldiers Charity. Formed as the Army Benevolent Fund more than 60 years ago it cares for soldiers and former soldiers and their families.

Major General Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter is Chief Executive: The Soldiers Charity, as it has since 1947, stands with soldiers and their families for life. Herefordshire, and neighbouring Monmouthshire and Powys, have very fine soldiering traditions. Our county committees are active, organising local events and facilitating national events such as The Big Curry in April 2011. Everyone will have a chance to support this.

With its extensive military connections Herefordshire does indeed have an active branch. The countys Lord Lieutenant, Lady Darnley, is president. General Denaro is its chairman. The secretary is former Scots Guards officer Ronnie Wilkie. The military charities are like a jigsaw, explains Ronnie, with each having its right place. The Soldiers Charity cares for the welfare needs of all soldiers not just those who are wounded and their families who might also need support and respite. Here in Herefordshire were trying to raise an army. An army of volunteers who can support The Soldiers Charity. Sometimes its hard to reach people in a community that is scattered over a wide area. But we find, here, that when we reach out to the people of this county they are incredibly generous.

The committee includes former WRAC officers Babs Mitcheson and Annabelle Massey. Since the ABF was formed there has only been one year in the 1960s when there were no British soldiers on active service somewhere in the world, says Babs, to emphasise the scale of the work of the charity. Annabelle adds: We aim to reach the wider army family, including those who have been army cadets and the Territorials.

Fundraising events are a vital part of the committees work. A regular feature in the Herefordshire Branch calendar is a carol service at Hereford Cathedral. This year it will be during the evening of December 16.

Among those who have agreed to speak is writer and broadcaster Quentin Letts. Seeing striking parallels between the recent scenes from Chile and this countrys response to soldiers returning from combat Quentin observes: I wish that we, as a country, would rally round as did the people of Chile. The images of national solidarity and pride were liberating and uplifting, showing mass support for brave, strong, stoical men. We owe a great debt to our servicemen and women and should not be reticent in showing our gratitude.

There is scope for much more. Annabelle Massey: Were always happy to accept offers of fundraising activities, no matter how small open gardens, jumble sales, well always support them with materials to the very best of our ability.

Actress Alexandra James made her home at Broadfield Court near Bodenham available to The Soldiers Charity for an early Christmas Fair at the end of October. I married into a military family, she explains, so have an understanding of the issues facing army families. Im proud to be supporting them and am only too happy that we can offer the facilities of Broadfield Court.

One of the distinguished visitors to that event was Mayor of Hereford, Anna Toon. Her own family has strong army connections. Its so important, she says, to let our brave service men and women and their families know that they have our total support. With the Soldiers Charity this is for life.

Ronnie Wilkie has written a poem that will have its first reading at the carol service in Hereford Cathedral. As she has in previous years, Alex James has offered to do the reading. The opening lines are:

The bells of Wootton Bassett were muffled on the day
When Taff and Jock and Jane and Jack returned from war to stay

Ronnies poem goes on to praise the heroism and self-sacrifice of our soldiers.

A very fitting and moving tribute to those who have given so much for us and now deserve a response to their needs from us.

Tickets for the carol concert on December 16 are on sale at The Outback Shop in Church Street, Hereford (01432 275063).

For ideas and offers of fundraising support for The Soldiers Charity contact Ronnie Wilkie on 07810
551333 or email

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