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Armistice Day Reflection

Andrew Lord, Alabaré CEO, reflects on his childhood memories this Armistice Day.

“I remember as a young boy, standing with my parents at Remembrance Sunday parades in Gosport. Watching the column of sailors, soldiers and veterans march past. On occasions, my father, who served in the Royal Navy, would be in the parade and I would be standing on tip-toes trying to catch a glimpse of him.

“The return of the warships from the Falklands War in 1982 was memorable, I cheered with my friends at Portsmouth Harbour as the ships emerged into sight. But my thoughts would also turn to the images of HMS Sheffield after being hit by the Exocet missile. HMS Sheffield was one of my father’s ships, and we often visited the “Shiny Sheff” for families’ days. I can still hear the BBC reporter speak of her being hit and the pictures of the flames bellowing out of her side. The loss of 20 sailors and another 62 wounded. As I write this, it feels like yesterday.

“A few years ago, I visited the grave of a family member,  Corporal John William Sealey, who served in the 2nd/1st Wessex Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps. He died on 3rd August 1917 and is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery.  There is a famous photo of stretcher-bearers struggling in mud, up to their knees, carrying a wounded man to safety at the Battle of Passchendaele. A battle that became infamous, not only for the scale of casualties but also for the mud. I know John was not in that photo, but he was not far from where it was taken. He would have experienced and seen the horror of Passchendaele, the many thousands of casualties, and the mud before being killed himself. As I stood next to his grave, I reflected he must have seen hell.

For the last 15 years Alabaré has supported veterans, who have become homeless or at risk of homelessness, through our supported housing. For some, homelessness was the result of injury, physical or mental health, whilst in the military, but for many life experiences afterwards. They have shared with me their stories of pride, comradeship, humour and disappointment. For many, despite the challenges of life since, speak fondly of their time in military and always have a good story to tell. Rarely spoken about are the experiences on the battlefield in Iraq, Afghanistan or peacekeeping duties in Bosnia.

“As I stand at the Remembrance Sunday parade on Sunday, I will remember Corporal Sealey, the sailors on HMS Sheffield, all the others who did not return home and the families who lost a loved one. I shall also remember those veterans, for whatever reason, who need our continued support and care.”  

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