My name is Jenna my dad was in the Army, based in Larkhill when I was born. I went to two primary schools and one secondary school during the time that I was a military child, my dad retired after twenty-two years service a couple of years into secondary school, where we narrowly missed a move. I was very lucky compared to other military kids as we were often settled.
We spent just over a year in Larkhill. Of course, I don’t remember it, but my parents had been lucky getting posted there as Mum’s family lived twenty minutes away. Nineteen years later she still talks about the quarter we lived in, apparently it was constantly freezing cold and had a garden full of molehills. We then moved on to Woolwich in South-East London where we spent the next six years.
Before I was born, my parents had previously been posted there so it wasn’t completely alien to them, they were actually really excited to be moving back. This is where my brother was born and where we did most of our growing up, learning to walk and talk. Although I wasn’t born there, Woolwich is where I tell people I’m from. It’s the cause of my cockney ‘twang’ (accent) as my dad likes to call it, that I have never been able to shift.
In 2007, we then made our last move to St George’s Barracks in Rutland where we stayed for 8 years, in what felt like a world away from home at the time. Trust the Army to put us in the middle of nowhere in a county that no one outside it has ever heard of. But perfectly, it was situated in the middle of my Dad’s family in Manchester, and my Mum’s in Wiltshire, which allowed us to see more of them. This move was a complete lifestyle shock. If you’ve never been to either, Woolwich and Rutland are complete polar opposites to say the least. I remember finding it crazy how many fields there were and how you could sit in the garden and it be utter silence, no sirens! I was even allowed to play out the front of the house alone, and if I was lucky; the park, something I would dream of in Woolwich. This move is when my brother and I really started to appreciate having each other around.
I’ve never experienced life inside the wire, every school I have been to has been civilian. Although, I’d say seventy percent of the kids were military in my second primary school which was a nice change as I hadn’t had this previously, I liked being surrounded by kids in the same situation. Needless to say, my brother and I had many friends come and go during our time there, as many parents had two year postings. Saying goodbye didn’t get easier until I was a bit older, but I understood that that was just how it was. I kept in touch with my closest friends, writing letters and speaking on the computer, this is probably one of my most wholesome memories as a military child. I loved writing letters, whether it was to a friend or even to my dad when he was away. I still have a few of his bluey’s to this day. What kid doesn’t like getting a letter with their name on it in the post?
I’m twenty now and I am in touch with so many of the kids that I grew up with online. You never forget each other. The close-knit community is definitely something you miss when transitioning into civilian life. Six years out, and I still miss not knowing who lives in every house on the estate.
When the time came to move up to secondary school, us brats were quite a small fraction of the school. I think this was really when it sunk in how different our lives were to children whose parents had a ‘normal’ job, I had never thought anything of it before. I remember getting a lot of questions initially when someone would find out that my dad was in the army. I didn’t really understand the fascination, but now I sit and think about it, if I had lived in the same town I was born in my whole life, I’d find the hectic lifestyle pretty interesting too.
Having a parent in the military, you learn to appreciate things that you otherwise wouldn’t so early on in life. You learn to let go, you learn to be patient and you learn to be accepting. I wouldn’t change a thing about my childhood, and I know my brother wouldn’t either.
The main piece of advice I’d give to a child with a parent in the military is to try not to think of change in such a negative way. Moving on can be emotional but it’s not always a bad thing. You could meet amazing new friends and you might even prefer it to the last posting who knows. Moving to Rutland was the best thing that happened to my family, we’re still here fourteen years later. This is where my parents decided to make our permanent home. And to think that before our posting we didn’t even know Rutland existed!
No feeling will top how immensely proud of my Dad I am. And I have never felt so much respect for someone like I do my mum, she brought my brother and I up alone half of the time, an absolute super woman if you ask me. One thing is for sure though, I definitely don’t miss the blue carpets.