Army Chaplains' Blog

Archive for December 2010

I spent some time this week in Selly Oak and Queen Elizabeth’s hospital, Birmingham, proud of the support and care offered to many of our soldiers. Whilst much care is provided by the MOD, so many charities work together to ensure a complete package of for numerous soldiers and families. As we currently have soldiers deploying to Afghanistan it was appropriate that many from our Battalion familiarised ourselves with the care provided in Brimingham. I had seen before the clinical care is second to none, with many trained professionals ensuring the very best for many of our wounded soldiers. What was new to me, is how much different charities are now also providing.

Help for Heroes which has helped to raise the profile of many charities leads the way in providing packages for soldiers as soon as they come off the plane – providing toiletries and clothes etc. I had heard of this but I wasn’t expecting such a smart package which spoke to me of the value in which each soldier is held. For some of our soldiers the treatment they under go can last for weeks if not months. Their families are provided for in flats if need be, with food and transport often laid on too. For soldiers who have lost limbs and need to reintegrate into society, Help for Heroes even provides money to take them out for a beer and pizza – such a simple thing and yet so valuable as soldiers become used to people staring and making comments. So many other charities help too, such as Saffa, Blesma, ABF and countless others. The Armed Services themselves offer so much support through the running of the facilities and although perhaps few would choose to be posted to such a place, so many of them find it so rewarding, as well as hard work. From the moment a soldier and their family enters the facilities they are guided and supported throughout.

We all came away from the visit in awe of the support available for our soldiers. We were also thankful of so many people who contribute to such charities, trusting they will provide what is needed for our soldiers. Whilst we all said we would rather not return, (as this would mean one of our soldiers had been hurt), we all agreed, if they had to go anywhere, we could think of no where else which provides such support.

So Thank you for every penny and pound you give to charity. On this note of thanks, thank you for supporting this blog, we have had up to nearly 10 000hits since Easter and we can tell from the stats, we even have a regular following. So Happy Christmas for now, I’ll give you a break for a bit as many people are away on holiday and hopefully in the New Year we will have found some new contributors for you to catch up with!

Well it feels like it for many Padres…Christmas tends to start early for the Army. Before they head off on leave, there are many occasions of gathering together, whether for Carol Services, a Battalion Christmas Day or just any excuse really. The difference for the Fusiliers bless them, is although there was time for fun last week, this week they are all back on exercise on the Plain, in the frost and snow again!

Still, last week we had fun. The Carol Service with a combination of Traditional Carols and Readings, mixed with an Apprentice Style Nativity Play (yes, many soldiers dressed up!) and a Beat boxing friend of mine seemed to go down well. Last year on St Georges Day, after the instruction by the RSM of, ‘spice it up Padre we want some fun’, I led the Battalion in a Rap style song, well this led to many of them wanting more. Net result I was out of my depth, so I drafted in an old friend of mine Revd Gavin Tyte, who entertained and informed the Battalion through beat boxing. I don’t think many of them had heard the Christmas Message said in such an unusual way, but it certainly gave them food for thought.
The following day was our Christmas Day starting at 0630 with Gunfire (waking the soldiers up with a cup of tea and rum and the drums platoon!), followed by the Colonels Challenge which this year resulted in an assault course with lots of cold water. We all defrosted over lunch, with the soldiers eating and the rest of us serving. We were entertained by an Army Band and later in the day we had an all ranks function with Karaoke, Curry Supper and a Girls Aloud tribute band. All in all everything seemed to go down well, the soldiers behaved and it was great to see all ranks getting on, having a laugh and socialising. The day however was tinged with reality, as those due to deploy to Afghanistan were in uniform ready to go and we said goodbye to them during the Christmas Day. Praying for them and wishing them well, our thoughts of course turned from fun and festivities to those currently serving over seas.

And no week finishes better than having Clarendon Junior School come to church for their own Carol service – once again we enjoyed Carols and Readings, but also Puppets and a song X Factor style. Whatever the content or format, Padres at this time of year have the amazing privilege of leading services all over the world for our soldiers, singing with them, praying with them, even teaching them. This weekend has also been full on too with social events for the Fusiliers children with cinema trips and last night saw the Officers mess donning fancy dress for a Winter wonderland ball. Praise God for these opportunities to socialise and to share the true meaning of Christmas.

Happy Christmas!

I think not!! Unlike parts of the country last week which seemed to grind to a slow halt, we carried on as normal. In the snow my guys (and many others around the world) continued as normal. They had a shooting camp which meant a week outside in freezing temperatures on various ranges practising their firing of different weapons. For my part I bimbled from range to range trying to find them, to give out sweets and good cheer. Although I have to say I was so cold myself there was less good cheer, and more reflection of how we must truly be mad to still be doing this. At one point one of the Company’s had provided a tent with some gas heating and I was impressed at just how many soldiers can fit in a space 5ft by 5ft. It was interesting to hear comments from many of the soldiers that they thought I was mad to join them. My response was, ‘well you’re out here so therefore so will I be’. Their response was, ‘Padre we’re only here because we have to, you have a choice and could get away with this, as a soldier you lie low if you can.’ And believe me at times, when my feet just wouldn’t warm up, I was eating in minus temps with the snow falling I was sorely tested!!

I did find a number of guys in an ambulance at one point and as it was warm we had some good chats and they didn’t try and escape either as it was too cold outside. I even got some willing volunteers for the Carol Service this Wednesday. It’s certainly going to be one with a difference as we plan to celebrate the birth of Jesus with a a slightly more contemporary feel. If it works it should be great, if not I may be looking for a job on civvie street…so if the blog is quiet next week, you’ll know it was a disaster….