It’s not widely known but there are 10 million veterans in the UK today, a number which grows steadily in line with Britain’s commitment to overseas peacekeeping and re-construction.
Ex-service men and women are not only the veterans of the Second World War and successive conflicts, their ranks are swelled by former National Service personnel, the Merchant Marine, the Women’s Services and all branches of the Reserve Forces and of all ages with some as young as eighteen.
To celebrate and recognise the contribution made by all veterans, Christine Barker, BBC Radio Humberside’s CSV Producer met and interviewed Dan, a local serving member of the Territorial Army, now celebrating its centenary, for his comments on the TA’s contribution and his own experiences.
Dan is a local part-time schoolteacher and has his own garden design company as well as being a member of the Territorial Army having completed a tour in Iraq, a veteran in every sense.
War memorial for British troops near Basra, Iraq
After serving an initial five year engagement, he told Christine that with the end of the Cold War the TA was ‘thinned out’ with him being part of this reduction. His motive for joining in the first place was the same as many others. He’d considered joining the Regular Army as a career and felt that joining the local TA Unit would give him the flavour of army life. He recalled how the TA had offered tremendous opportunities for adventure training and travel which included him visiting and training in fourteen countries including Belize, Mexico, the USA and Corsica.
Eventually he decided to re-join, for as he said, ‘I missed the camaraderie and job satisfaction’.
With Britain’s involvement in Iraq, the need for Territorial Army units to support the Regular Army in areas such as logistics support and security became necessary with the TA being fully integrated into the structure of the Regular Army. Dan’s unit became involved by making a contribution to the well being of the Iraqi people by delivering medical aid and with their very presence providing security which was welcomed by the Iraqis even though, as Dan said, they were often the target of indiscriminate mortar and small-arms fire from insurgents.
When questioned by Christine over his return to the normality of home, he admitted that the Iraq tour did take its toll, not only was it a year out of his life spent in a tense highly volatile situation but it was an emotional drain being away from his partner and their daughter. After the tension of being on call twenty four hours a day with sleep being snatched only when possible, it was difficult to adapt to a structured routine in civilian life on return even though when away he’d had the full support of his partner, parents and family.
He’d been kept in regular contact through the good offices of his unit’s Welfare Officer with regular deliveries of DVD’s and videos and the important food parcels including the much missed fruitcake from the ladies of his parents’ church.
All returning service personnel are granted ‘post tour leave’ where instructions are given to relax ,not to return to employment and generally spend time adapting to a more structured civilian routine, in Dan’s case, back to family life.
With the strong likelihood of TA members being called to serve in war zones, Christine asked what Dan felt about his TA service in the light of his experiences and those of his colleagues. His reply was positive and reassuring. "I’m very proud to serve in the Territorial Army and do the job I’ve been trained for and I know all my colleagues feel the same. We fly the flag and show the rest of the world what a good job the UK can do. Our role isn’t just to fight, we’re also an organisation which tries to bring peace to the areas we’re sent to, that’s what I want to be part of’.