Veterans at HMP Northumberland commemorate D-Day 80

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10 June 2024

For many years, SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity has run a successful scheme for veterans in the criminal justice system (VCJS) throughout the UK.

Volunteers of its Prison In-Reach service perform many tasks and fulfils many roles for veterans of the Armed Forces serving custodial sentences.

SSAFA Northumberland has a close working association with HMP Northumberland, a relationship that goes back for well over a decade, and last Thursday (June 6) – the 80th anniversary of D-Day – they and others took part in a poignant service of remembrance for the Normandy Landings in June 1944.

SSAFA Branch Chairperson, Dr Caroline Pryer – recently appointed as the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland – attended the prison in her capacity as Lord Lieutenant to contribute to service held at the memorial situated within the prison grounds.

This simple – but perhaps all the more moving for its simplicity – commemoration was led by members of the prison chaplaincy and involved an address by the Lord Lieutenant, together with poems read by a prisoner and the prison governor. The service was well attended by members of staff and prisoners and included a considerable number who themselves had served in the Armed Forces.

SSAFA Northumberland enjoys a close partnership with the Oswin Project, a local charity that gives VCJS a second chance through mentoring, training, and employment opportunities.

Caroline viewed several sites within the prison involved with the care and rehabilitation of prisoners including a visit to the newly opened Alnwick House accommodation block and the tailoring and engineering workshops. She also visited the prison market gardens – now managed by the Oswin Project, which runs its “Growing Out” project – and met members of staff and prisoners employed there. Produce from the market gardens can be bought at the farm shop located outside the prison estate and open to the public.

Caroline and others enjoyed a reception and buffet lunch in Café 16, another enterprise within the prison grounds run by the Oswin Project. She met and talked with staff and prisoners, some of whom – including VCJS – make items for the bakery.

Café 16 has received two donations from the Carmichael Walker Trust to buy catering equipment used by the prisoners who work there, with the most recent donation funding the purchase of a John Hunt Champion Little Pie Press. Prisoners, whether former Forces or not, working in Café 16 can gain professional qualifications while also developing their skills in an effort to reduce or eliminate re-offending.

Speaking later, Caroline said: “Thursday’s visit – especially on the 80th anniversary of D-Day – gave the prison, its staff, and prisoners the chance to showcase the wonderful work that’s being done with our ex-Armed Forces personnel in the criminal justice system.

It was an exceptional morning and I was hugely humbled to have the opportunity to talk with prisoners, volunteers and staff remembering those who showed courage, resilience and solidarity on D-Day 1944 and reflecting on similarly themed support given to prisoners at HMP Northumberland.”

Please feel free to call our Forcesline if you need any support.

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