As the Territorial Army celebrates its centenary with a pageant in The Mall, serving members describe life in the TA and explain what inspires them to serve in the reserve force.
CORP KEVIN BURGESS, 28 ENGINEER REGIMENT, 412 AMPHIBIOUS ENGINEER TROOP
Corp Burgess, 37, joined the TA in Germany in 2001. A member of 412 Amphibious Engineer Troop, his job is to drive, pilot and command the Army’s M3 amphibious vehicles, which are used to ferry troops and equipment across rivers or create temporary bridges.
Originally from the Isle of Wight, Corp Burgess had settled down with a German woman after years of regular Army service in Germany and did not want to return to the UK when his contract expired.
Now based in Hameln, Germany, he runs an IT consultancy and a pub as well as being a member of the 412 Amphibious Engineer Troop – the only TA unit based outside the UK and which was deployed in Iraq in 2003.
Corp Burgess says being in the TA has enabled him to continue soldiering, as well as a welcome chance to speak English and rediscover the camaraderie of his regular Army days.
He says: “Most of us have got jobs working with Germans, so to be able to work with English soldiers again is quite relaxing. It’s an opportunity to get away from your normal, everyday life.
“Also, with 412 making the contribution they are in Iraq, it brings a very real sense of pride and you can talk about doing the very same things as your regular counterparts. “One of the things you do miss after a good amount of regular service is the camaraderie. It’s something only a soldier can really understand. But in the TA we talk to each other in the way we would as soldiers and treat each other as soldiers.”
DRUM MAJOR STEVE WARD, ROYAL SIGNALS (NORTHERN) BAND
Drum Major Steve Ward, 60, is a member of the Royal Signals (Northern) Band, taking part in parades, fetes, tattoos and other events the length and breadth of the country.
He joined the TA 16 years ago after serving in the regular Army with the Coldstream Guards and Household Division from the age of 15, retiring as a senior drum major who led parades at prestigious events such as the Trooping of the Colour.
He said: When I left I felt like continuing it, so I found a local TA band in Middlesbrough, rang them up and asked if they needed a drum major. They said come along.
“It also gave me the opportunity to become a musician, and I had to learn an instrument.
“In the regular Army I had been a fifer and drummer, but the way it works in the military is you are a soldier first and a fifer and drummer second.
“Since joining the TA band I’ve learned the cornet, the tenor sax and the baritone sax and I also play tenor horn in a brass band. It has given me, not a hobby, but another track.”
For his day job, Drum Major Ward, of Northallerton, North Yorks, now works as an accommodation services accountant for the Army, sorting out furnishings for soldiers’ homes.
Although he plans to retire from the TA shortly after leading Saturday’s 100th anniversary parade, membership has brought him much satisfaction.
He says: “It gives me a sense of pride and a sense of service, it’s a contribution to the community.
“We do fetes within the community, keeping the TA in the public eye, it’s very difficult to get out of that when you retire.”
In 2006, she was deployed to Iraq for a six-month tour with the Royal Dragoon Guards.
She says: “I’m from a family with a long history of involvement with the TA. My great-grandfather was a founder member in 1908. Since then, my mother, father, uncle and brother have all been in the TA and I’ve been serving in green one way or another since I was a cadet.
“I trained as a first aid instructor and was in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, which is a civilian volunteer organisation, not TA.
“Then the medics that went to Iraq in the very early days were writing, saying conditions were really tough and I knew I could make myself useful.”
Trooper Beattie volunteered for Iraq, was transferred to the TA and by spring 2006 she was on duty in Al Muthaba province.
There she set to work supporting Army medics, teaching first aid to British and Iraqi troops and carrying out first aid herself.
She says: ” I looked after boys who had a bit of diarrhoea – it wasn’t very glamorous but it was helpful.
“Those boys work very hard – it’s physically demanding to go out on patrol in the back of a Land Rover, so anything I could do to help was welcome – from powdering their athlete’s foot to bringing tea and toast when they had the squits or just passing bandages to the doctor when he needed them, or clearing up afterwards.”
She also attended seriously wounded men, including some who died from their injuries, and came under mortar fire herself.
She said: “It’s actually less terrifying than you imagine it to be because you’re all in it together. You’re all in the same circumstances and you can all laugh and joke and let off steam about it afterwards.”
“My family were very worried about me, despite the fact I come from such a heavily TA family. My brother went to Bosnia and Northern Ireland repeatedly and my father went all over the place.
“But it seemed to come as a surprise to them that I would too. No one wants to have their child being mortared. I just wrote letters tried to lessen their worries.”
Trooper Ward, of Dulwich, south-east London, says her experience of the TA has given her a “sense of purpose, a sense of contributing something useful and a sense of service”.
She says: “Being in London when my Army friends are under threat in Iraq – it’s all very fine going shopping and having the perfect shoe collection or seeing the latest films at the cinema but you’re not helping anybody.
“I’m so grateful and proud of the fact I was able to help the lads going out on patrol. And I’m really looking forward to going back as soon as I can.”