Girls on Film

WAGS Army - June

Step aside Calendar Girls the new kids are on the block.

WAGS Army is a group of 15 women from Northumberland  who have come up with a fun idea to raise money for the Royal British Legion and ABF The Soldier’s Charity.

“Vicky Field and I came up with the idea in March”

Says Charley Higham, Co -founder of WAGS Army, whose husband serves in 39 Regiment Royal Artillery.

“It was supposed to be a small calendar to help Vicky, a textiles student, with her portfolio for University.

“We have been putting it together since March, deciding on the concept, design, what we wanted it to look like.

“We thought we would make about 30 calendars for friends and family and raise some money.”

Vicky’s father also serves in 39 Regiment Royal Artillery.

The girls aim to raise between five and three hundred pounds for the charities by selling their calendars.

“They are two amazing charities, both of which our families have supported.”

Charley explained to Women at War.

“Major Ingram from the ABF has been amazing; he contacted a local printer who the charity deals with.

“We received the proof on Friday, and they have made an amazing job.

“Better than we expected!”

This is the first charity venture of this kind for the girls although they are not new to fundraising.

“Vicky and I have organised a full family fun day for Help for Heroes and earlier this year we ran the charity side of the 39 Regiment RA reunion where we raised money for the RBL & ABF.”

Charley is not sure whether she would do this again.

“We always say never again.

“I ran the Great North Run last year & that is definitely never again!….. But the calendar has been really good fun!

“We will have to see how this one sells.”

You can get your copy of the calendar by emailing

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The Great Poppy Party Weekend: Abingdon celebrates 90 years of the Royal British Legion

MP Nicola Blackwood, Lt Heather Harman, Council Chairman Patrick Greene and Ruth Powell

“The Royal British Legion is as relevant to our serving personnel today as it was 90 years ago”.

This was the overriding message at Oxford West and Abingdon’s Royal British Legion ‘Poppy Party’ last Friday at Abingdon Guildhall.


MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Nicola Blackwood, hosted one of many Poppy Parties taking place around the country as a part of the British Legion’s Great Poppy Party Weekend, in order to toast 90 years of the Legion.

“The poppy appeal is not just about November; it is not just about remembrance,” explained Nicola. “It is also about a very real welfare which goes on year in year out requiring constant fundraising and constant support.

“The British Legion has been there for 90 years; it has this incredible inherent resource of knowledge and understanding. It doesn’t change between the governments, it doesn’t change with political philosophies or fashion and that is incredibly valuable, that stability and certainty.

“Abingdon, Oxfordshire, is a forces town; we have Dalton Barracks right next to us. We have many of forces families living here, many of our schools have forces children attending and many of our services are used by forces families.

“I wanted to raise a bit of awareness by giving the community the chance to show the local Regiment (12 Logistics and Support Regiment) how much we support them, as well as give the Regiment the opportunity to come in and meet some of the community members and to really get a feeling for that support which is there for them.”

Commander of a fuel and transport troop based at Dalton Barracks, Lieutenant Heather Harman, 27, was representing 12 Logistics and Support Regiment. She feels that events like Poppy Parties are a great way of making serving personnel more aware of the work that the Legion does.

“What they do for people with serious injuries is amazing, and for their families. That’s the biggy really, because families suffer more than we do. We go away for six months doing what we want to do, where as they sit at home and if something happens to us the Legion looks after them.”

Co-ordinator of the 90th Anniversary of the Royal British Legion, Ruth Powell, was speaking at the event. She says that it is important to remember that the Legion is not just the 11th of November.

“We are about every single day of the year. The British legion delivers welfare across the whole of the country and has been doing so since we were founded in 1921. We are here for the long haul and it is really important that serving personnel and the general public know that we are here and we intend to support them”.

See also:

Royal British Legion celebrates 90 years with “Poppy Parties” all over England

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Royal British Legion celebrates 90 years with “Poppy Parties” all over England

The Royal British Legion is celebrating 90 years of standing shoulder to shoulder with military personnel by throwing Poppy Parties; to celebrate nationwide, the work that they have done for serving personnel and their families over the years.

Women at War caught up the Ruth Powell Co-ordinator for the 90th Anniversary at the Oxford West and Abingdon Royal British Legion Poppy Party, hosted by MP Nicola Blackwood.

Ruth Powell with members of 12 Logistics Support RegimentMP Nicola Blackwood, Lt Heather Harman, Chairman of Abingdon County Council, Patrick Greene with Ruth Powell

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Dead Game: How writing helped Claire Kinton to deal with the death of her cousin, Lance Corporal Fletcher.

Claire Kinton

When her cousin died in a fatal head on collision the day before he was to return from R&R to Iraq, Claire Kinton did not know where to turn.

Pregnant with her first child she put her heart and soul into writing what became Dead Game.

An exciting novel that follows the fate of Corporal Archie Fletcher after his plane plummets in the Persian Gulf during the second Gulf war, Dead Game takes readers into a fantasy world of guardian angels and mythical saints.

“When my cousin was killed, I think like many, my faith was questioned to the highest degree.”

Lance Corporal Charles Fletcher, who had seen action in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, was serving in 3rd Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Paderborn in Germany, when he died in 2003.

“Charles was like a brother to me.

“Part of me refused to accept he was gone so I went on my own mission to find him.

“I found myself in a local awareness group and spent the next six years practising mediumship.”

Dealing with loss of her cousin Charles and living on an RAF base, where she saw for herself the feelings of grief suffered by those who lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, Claire felt compelled to write a novel that examines life after death.

“Witnessing at first hand the heartbreak of loss that conjures a multitude of emotions, particularly in children and young adults, spurred me on to complete Dead Game.

“For some young minds it is not enough to say ‘He’s gone to Heaven’, they need to know why, what happens next, how long will they be gone?

“Dead Game is my way of answering these poignant questions.”

She explained to Women at War.

Writing a book and starting a family, however, presented its challenges and long days followed by nights spent working on the book became the norm.

“Reality just happened around me whilst I immersed myself in words.

“Dead Game book was very much a necessity for me, my escape from baby blues, my Prozac if you like.

“It is tough having three small children, the disturbed nights and early mornings causing extreme exhaustion.

“I’m not sure how I did it to be honest; it’s a bit of a blur.”

However, her hard work paid off and Dead Game received a nomination for the Brit Writers Awards Unpublished 2010, an initiative that encourages unpublished writers and poets to showcase their work.

The book itself was launched in October last year in Nottingham at the New Writers UK Festival where it sold out.

However, Claire does not feel that she is the only one who can take the credit.

“Today my faith that our spirits live on is stronger than ever and I truly believe that my cousin Charles aided me in writing Dead Game.”

Success has spurred Claire on to write a second novel, The Waiting Game, in which Archie Fletcher will also play a lead role.

She hopes that through writing she may be able to return the support given to her family after the death of Charles by the Soldiers, Sailors Airman and Families Association (SSAFA) and the Army Benevolent Fund.

She feels that it was important to donate a portion of Dead Game to SSAFA and Help for Heroes.

“I may not condone or understand war but I sure as hell will support every single one of our troops who fight for us.

“They are all, no matter what their role, individually, brave, honourable patriots of our country and our freedom.”

Find out more about Dead Game at

Follow Claire’s  Blog

Dead Game Book




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DecAid: Remembering ten years in Afghanistan

In August this year four volunteers will scale all 283 of the Munro mountains in Scotland in an attempt to raise money for charities supporting British Troops.

The team, all members of DecAid, an appeal launched by a dynamic group of young people, many of whom are from the Officer Training Corps at Exeter University, will aim to complete the challenge in 50 days.

Each summit will be dedicated to service personnel who have made the final sacrifice as a result of the Afghan war.

Founder, Tom O’Connell, told Women at War that the hardest thing about the mission would be going for 7 weeks without a break.

“Keeping going for that long isn’t something that the body is used to.

“It will be as hard mentally as it is physically and in a way preparing yourself mentally is a lot harder than preparing physically.”

“It doesn’t matter if you are fit enough to finish the challenge if your mind doesn’t want to carry on!”

They will cover the 1600 mile route using kayaks and bikes but most of it will be done on foot.

So far the DecAid team have raised over £6,000 and have received accolades from the Prime Minister, and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall has agreed to be their Royal Patron.

A good start for an appeal which aims to raise £350,000 through a range of events, for SSAFA Forces Help, BLESMA and Talking2Minds in the tenth anniversary year of British Forces in Afghanistan.

“We were keen not to start our own charity but to support the work of these three charities who we believe address many of the effects of the conflict on British service personnel and their families.”

Says co-founder, Rupert Laing.

Consisting of over 50 volunteers up and down the country, many of whom have serving friends due to go out to Afghanistan or come from service families, DecAid have organised a wide range of events.

As well as the Munro mission, events include 2011 pipers and drummers making their way down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh on Armed Forces Day and a memorial service at Salisbury Cathedral in December, during which a candle will be lit for every soldier killed.

What makes this appeal different is the fact that all the volunteers are under the age of 25.

“We recognise that over half of the British Service men and women to have lost their lives in Afghanistan over the past decade have been aged between 18 and 25.

“We believe it is appropriate for our age group to show our support.”

Explains Rupert.

Many of the volunteers are still studying.

“This means that we must be constantly aware of the fact that all of the team members have a number of priorities to fit their work around.”

However, the team is enthusiastic and training for the Munro Mission has already begun.

There is no doubt that the DecAid team have a big challenge ahead of them this year, yet, with such a strong line-up of events they are well on their way to meeting their target.

Find out more go to the  DecAid website

To remember a loved one go to the DecAid Remembrance wall

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Frontline Vet: Capt Laura Holmes on working with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan

In a few weeks time Captain Laura Holmes, who is currently based in Germany with The 1st Military Working Dog Regiment (1MWD Regt), will be heading out to Lashkar Gah, in Afghanistan, to be the veterinary officer to the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

Laura’s work will include working with the local Afghan people, most of whom will be male, to educate them as to how they can better look after their livestock.

She explained to Women at War why work like this is so important.

“Because of our withdrawal from Afghanistan eventually, we hope to leave them in a better state from when we entered.

“So on my part, I am trying to improve the health and welfare of the animals and better educate people, so they can help themselves, it’s about hearts and minds really”

Laura, 29, will be working closely with veterinary technician Corporal Emma Ford who will be doing a lot of the teaching.

They will also provide clinics where local people can bring their livestock for check ups and learn more about how to prevent illness in animals in the first place.

As a part of her work she will be co-ordinating with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) and the Afghan government.

When asked if she is nervous about working on the ground with the Afghan people, she says that she is looking forward to it but as always she is nervous of the unknown.

“I am going out to do something that I have not done before.

“I’m not nervous for my health or integrating with the locals.

“I am quite looking forward to it to be honest”

Because of the Muslim culture in Afghanistan Laura will be working mainly with men.

However, this is not a concern for her.

“For the Afghans the women in the Army are almost seen as a third gender, they are not seen as the same as Afghan women.”

The nature of modern warfare means that anyone working beyond the wire is at risk.

“It is asymmetric  warfare now, counter-insurgency is one of those things where there is no real front line.

“You can be back in the safe haven of camp and still find that there is a threat… It’s not trench warfare like it used to be.

“I think it is just a matter of taking every precaution when you are out there.

“Taking into account the lessons learned and using the (military) training that I have received to make sure I stay safe”.

In preparation for deployment Laura has received some basic training in Pashto as well as being taught about the culture and how to respect the wishes of the people.

Some of this is taught by Afghan nationals working with the Army.

The Reconstruction team will also be made up of Doctors and Engineers working alongside the people to gather local information about who needs what and where.

Whilst Laura is looking forward to her work over the next six months there will be some challenges ahead.

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Caroline Wyatt on women on the frontline

Journalist, Caroline Wyatt talks to Women at War about women on the frontline.

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