24 Jun

This weekend has seen Armed Forces Day marked. Some places go all-out, with a parade of troops associated with the area and military themed events, other just raise a flag - all and any gestures are appreciated. It's great to see our troops in uniform, marching proudly, establishing their identity, like only wearing a uniform can. It's something we do very well in Britain, as the recent Coronation and Trooping of the Colour have shown.

That got me thinking about uniform, how, it infiltrates our lives, often without us realising. Most of us have our 1st experience of it at school - although that wasn't the case for me and was a source of disappointment; for some reason my primary school in the 1970's, had a non-uniform policy. It was a church school, and long established, so why that was I have no idea. On "state" ocassions - like going off to a choir competition, we were required to wear uniform - cue a frantic scrabble around to find the school tie, previously worm by my 4 siblings, a white blouse of one of my sisters that was small enough, the younger was 7 years older than me, and horrors - having to borrow a grey skirt from a neighbour's daughter! But I loved wearing it all - borrowed, hand-me-down or not.
Joining the Brownies - and wearing the uniform was a huge milestone and I loved it. Mum said I polished my shoes for a week, before the day I took my Promise - the practice came in handy in later years!

If you weren't a fan of school uniform, or into Scouts, Guides or Forces Cadets, you might think uniform had passed you by. Bet it didn't. Uniform, after all, means looking the same. So for you it could have been wearing a football or rugby team shirt, a leather jacket, a band t shirt, or dressing all in black - according to what tribe you identified with. And there's a lot of us who can identify with being picked on, because we didn't look like everyone else. Uniform gives a sense of belonging and of safety.

Over the past few weeks at The Forces Veteran's Afloat Charitable Trust, we've been working on a "uniform" of our own. We have a new logo and have been working with one of our sponsors - Tiller Girl Canal Holidays - on a new design of T shirt, which we hope our supporters will buy, wear, spread the work and raise funds. Wrist bands will be appearing soon, as well as baseball caps. We are establishing an identity, providing people with something they can wear to show their allegiance to us and banding us together.

For a veteran, coming out of uniform is a huge thing. Many feel they don't know who they are any more, or even what to wear when they get up in the morning. Going from a hugely recognisable uniform, to civilian clothes all the time can be a big shock. Wearing a charity shirt, a wrist band or a badge can go a long way to re establishing the vital sense of belonging.  

On 1st September, Armed Forces T shirt day - Bare Arms for Charity - is being held. It's a great idea - it's ultimate aim is to raise funds for the charity, Combat Stress. The idea is that you pay a donation - what every you can afford - which will be donated to Combat Stress. The really clever thing is that you can wear what ever armed forces T shirt you want, hopefully buying one from an armed forces charity, and they'll raise money too. Simple - genius. Wish I'd thought of it!We've hoping that a few of you will choose to wear Forces Veterans Afloat shirts - so watch this space and we'll post details soon of how to get our shirts, but what ever you wear, take pride in it, and embrace in a small part at least, being Uniform.

Lizzie Lane, Co-chair, The Forces Veterans Afloat Charitable Trust.


* The email will not be published on the website.