Armed Forces Day 2022

Saturday 25 June

Armed Forces Day 2022

Saturday 25 June

Armed Forces Day 2022 is here!

Join SSAFA and the country in celebrating our Armed Forces, and the incredible work they do serving British interests and values across the world.

As anyone with experience of Armed Forces life knows, it presents a set of challenges unique among other professions and careers, challenges that SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity has been helping with for nearly 140 years.

Commonly, these include frequent changes of location, deployment overseas at potentially short notice, the anxiety this can bring to those remaining at home, a level of risk, the effect on all types of relationships and on the education of children.

Given what seems like the litany of negatives above, what prompts men and women to see past those and still turn up to their nearest Armed Forces careers office and join one of the services?


Ask any member of the Armed Forces, serving or veteran, reserves or regulars, and the responses can be broken down into several categories.

Serving your country, building a career, learning a particular trade or profession, or adventure are just a few.

Following a family tradition is another, and for many, second only to a sense of patriotism.

Whether a ship, a regiment, or a squadron, those you serve and work closest with are family, the “band of brothers” (and sisters) referred to for generations, but it is different from a son or daughter following their father’s or mother’s footsteps, or even their grandparents, into service life.

Celebrating Armed Forces Families

This Armed Forces Day, the UK’s oldest tri-service charity is focusing on the “F” in SSAFA: families.

Families come in all shape and sizes these days, from a mum and dad to two mums or two dads, from single parents to blended families, fostered and adopted children and different generations in one household.

People within SSAFA were asked to contribute their family stories, their own potted stories, and photos to shine a light on those who have followed in their forebears’ footsteps – and in some cases whose own children have done similar.

Here are some of those families:

Nick Berryman, SSAFA Sussex Branch Chairman has an extensive multi-generational military family, which dates back four generations to The Great War.



From left to right: Nick, his grandfather Reginald, his father Neville, his daughter Victoria, and his son Christopher.

His own service history began with joining the RAF straight from school, before serving 27 years as a fast jet pilot and staff officer during the Cold War.

Nick’s paternal grandfather, Reginald “Reg” Berryman joined the army in 1915 as a private with the General Service Corps, then with the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) in 1917. He joined the 1st Battalion HAC in May, having narrowly missed the fighting at Gavrelle, where two of the battalion’s officers were awarded the Victoria Cross. Reg later transferred to the Military Police, and with the army of occupation in Germany at the end of the war.

On his mother’s side, Nick’s other grandfather, Walter Parker, joined the Army in 1916 as a signalman 1st Class in the Royal Garrison Artillery and after the war, commanded the Sea Cadet unit in Lincoln.

Keeping with this side of the family, Evelyn Parker, his mother was a WAAF for a short time, before marrying a young French pilot who had escaped France to join the RAF. Sadly, he was killed in a flying accident in 1943, though shortly afterwards, Evelyn married his friend, also an RAF pilot.

Evidence, if it is needed, of the high casualty rate among RAF flightcrew is given by the tragic fact that he too was killed in a flying accident. However, by this time, she had given birth to Nick’s brother.

In 1945, Evelyn married Nick’s father, Neville “Nick” Berryman, also a fighter pilot. He joined the RAF in 1941, and after training in the USA, became an Air Sea Rescue pilot in the south of England and North Africa, flying two Supermarine types, the Walrus seaplane and the Spitfire, as well the Hurricane, and various other types. After WWII, Nick then joined the Royal Naval Reserve.

Branching out from direct ancestors, Nick’s uncles, Alan Berryman and Eric Parker also served.

Alan, his father’s younger brother, joined the 2nd Battalion, Royal East Kent Regiment in 1944, and served in India and the Far East until 1948. Eric, his maternal uncle, was commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve from 1939 to 1945, and was wounded onboard HMS Curacoa in Norway in 1940 following a collision with the RMS Queen Mary. Eric’s injuries included a splinter lodged – inoperably – behind one eye, but he lived into his nineties.

Nick’s brother, David McNair-Taylor, was an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve for many years, and one of his daughters was a member of the Royal Air Force Reserve. Nick’s daughter, Victoria, was a member of the RAuxAF Regiment for a short time, and her husband served as a seaman in the Royal Navy.

And bringing the family history of decades of military service bang up to date is Nick’s son, Christopher, with 34 years’ service in the RAF and who is a Wing Commander in the RAF Regiment.

 

Neil Stevens, SSAFA Borders Branch Secretary, retired from the Royal Signals as a lieutenant colonel in 2019.

From left to right: Neil, his brother Gary, and Neil's daughter Bryony.

Born and raised in South Molton, Devon, Neil now lives in Morebattle near Kelso. He recalls having wanted to join the Army from a very young age, and although his parents have no military service, both his grandfathers served during WWII. Neil has in fact only recently returned from a family pilgrimage to Normandy in honour of his paternal grandfather, who landed on D-Day with the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and finished in Bremerhaven. His brother, Gary Stevens, is in the RAF Reserve.

Neil’s career began at 16 at Welbeck College and he went into the Army aged 18. His eldest daughter, Bryony Stevens, is an officer in the Army Reserve and is currently on a Full Time Regular Service appointment as a Personnel Recovery Officer at Tidworth, Wiltshire, and has regular involvement with SSAFA because of this role.

Of his involvement with SSAFA, and Armed Forces Day, Neil said that the reason he volunteers is because: “I know that many soldiers had much more difficult period of service than I did, and so I want to give them something by serving as a volunteer for SSAFA, and as for Armed Forces Day, it helps to maintain the strong bond and connection between those who serve and those they serve.

Describing the importance to him of family life within the Armed Forces, he said: “My best friends are still those who I served with, in some cases, many years ago.

But it is not just me. My children are still close with the friends they met in the variety of Army schools they attended, and my wife still keeps in touch with many of the wives and families that we served alongside.

The military family has and continues to be vital for us all.”

Bryony added: “In my line of work we see the positive impact that strong family support can have when soldiers are recovering. For the wider Army if the family is strong at home, then the soldier can be strong away from home.

 

Richard French, a SSAFA Regional Fundraising Officer, joined the Coldstream Guards aged 18.

From left to right: Richard's mother Shirley, his brother David, Richard himself, and his father Michael.

 

His service – which included joining the Guards Parachute Battalion, two tours of Northern Ireland, as well as Iraq, three tours of Afghanistan, and deployment to Kenya on anti-poaching operations was cut short in 2017 after a parachute accident in America.

Richard says that he always wanted to be active in the military was influenced by his parents’ military service. This is hardly surprising as his father, Michael, joined the Army as a boy soldier aged 15 in 1966, leaving the Royal Army Medical Corps as a full Colonel 38 years later. His mother, Shirley, was a captain in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, and even nursed 'Monty' – Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery – in his final years.

Richard’s elder brother, David Heath-French is a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

 

Last, but by no means least, Sir Andrew Gregory, CEO of SSAFA and a lieutenant general late of the Royal Artillery.

From left to right: Sir Charles Egerton, Sir Andrew (right) and his son Rupert, Sir Andrew's father Dick, and his mother Alison.

At least five generations of his family have served in the Armed Forces, including his great-grandfather, Field Marshal Sir Charles Comyn Egerton, whose early career saw him take part in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the Hazara Expedition, and operations in the Khyber Pass.

Both Sir Andrew’s grandfathers served in the Royal Navy, one a captain, the other a vice admiral. His father, Dick Gregory, landed on Sword Beach on D-Day, his mother – Alison Egerton – was a Wren (the popular name for the Women’s Royal Naval Service) and his sister served in the Women's Royal Army Corps. Sir Andrew’s son Rupert, as well as a nephew, are serving officers in the Royal Artillery.

Sir Andrew said:The military is in my family’s DNA! It goes back to a photograph of my great-great-grandfather, who served in the 89th Regiment of Foot, outside a bell tent at the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War in 1855.

“Through to my grandfather who was lost at sea serving on the North Atlantic convoys on January 1, 1943, to my father who was badly wounded on D-Day, to my mother who served in the WRNS, past my military service and is kept alive by one of our sons and a nephew who are both currently serving in the Royal Artillery.

“I am very proud of my family’s military service, just as I am of all those who chose to defend this nation’s freedoms and values.

“Being a part of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity allows me to continue to assist those members of the military community who have given so much and, for whatever reason, now need some support. SSAFA is there for them today, just as it will be there for future generations of service personnel and their families.

 

Support SSAFA and the Armed Forces

SSAFA works tirelessly to support all members of the Armed Forces family who are in need.

We provide one-to-one contact with anyone who approaches us, thanks to our dedicated Forcesline team.

We have an nation-wide volunteer network who can provide direct mentorship, advice and support to serving men and women and veterans wherever they are.

We help people recover from their injuries and cope with disability in the family.

We provide an outstanding adoption service, dedicated to the unique challenges faced by Armed Forces parents.

We help veterans transition into 'civvy street', and look after them if they face difficulty.


But we cannot do these things without the incredible support of our fundraisers, volunteers and donors.

Please support SSAFA this Armed Forces day, and help us help the heroic men and women who serve our nation.