Truth be told, I love being a military child. I think it gave me such a unique and interesting background and I have already experienced so much in such a short space of time. Growing up, I got to move every two years, which as a child meant I got to redecorate my room and start a new school! Though born in Germany, all of my father’s postings have been in the UK since then and I have a great number of positive memories from all these different houses! I made a great number of friends and got to see so many different parts of the UK. A highlight for me from when I was ten was setting up a Narnia themed ball in the mess that my mother and father attended – there was a life-sized Aslan that was so cool to ten-year-old me! I was lucky enough to attend boarding school from the age of nine until eighteen, and here I made life-long friends and was able to develop strong ties to my schools that I still maintain to this day. At boarding school, I also met a number of other military children and was able to lean on them when things got tough. Every childhood has its ups and downs, but I truly loved moving around and meeting new people. This experience has shaped me for who I am today, and I carry this through in my love of languages and culture, which I am currently studying at university!
For me, without a doubt my favourite memory is running around messes on Friday nights while drinking J2Os and playing hide-and-seek in all of the many common rooms with all my siblings and friends from the patch. These evenings were something that no non-military child will ever quite get, and frankly they allowed you to slow into a friend group with no difficulties at all when you moved to a new house. As I grew older, my experience at messes changed, but not in a bad way! It allowed me to spend a Friday night out of the house and to socialise and meet people from all across the world. If I didn’t want to talk and be social, I would take a book and curl up in an armchair in the lounge and spend my evening reading. There were numerous BBQ nights and nights when the mess chefs would prepare an entire buffet of curries, cakes and deserts, and we were allowed to help ourselves to whatever we wanted (of course I went for the cakes!). These socials and sit-down dinner that we held here at these messes were honestly one of the best and most fun things to do when I was a child. I was able to make new friends and run around and play in a frankly incredible building while all the adults enjoyed themselves in the bar!
I struggled a lot with my father being deployed. Between the ages of eight and twelve, my father was deployed on three six-month tours and I missed him terribly. My siblings, who are all younger than me, do not remember these tours as I do. They were hard for everyone, especially my mother, who was raising four children under the age of eight by herself for six months at a time. As I grew older though, I realised that why these periods of time were hard for everyone, they also allowed my father to do what he loved, and my mother to support him in that. I think that being surrounded by people in the same boat as you and leaning on them for support, such as spending evenings at the mess, really ensures that don’t feel alone in your experience. As I mentioned before, messes became my saving grace during this time, for my mother too, who was able to have a child-free evening with her friends while all of the children were occupied with each other! One really happy and positive memory from these tours was receiving airmail from my father. When we saw one of these blue envelopes, all of us got so excited and could not wait to open them. To this day, I still have those letters from my father as keepsakes.
Overall, my childhood as a military child truly shaped who I am today, and I would not change it for anything. I have experiences and friends that will last a lifetime, and for that I am eternally grateful to my parents and family.