My military child story starts in Salisbury, where I was born, to moving to seven other bases around the UK as well as a two-year posting in Germany in 2006. Amongst that, I’ve attended eight different schools, including two years at boarding school. Now, at twenty-one, I’m in my last year of being deemed a ‘military child’ when my Dad retires later in the year from 35 years of service. The thought of leaving a tight knit community where everyone’s there for each other is blue, but once a military child, you’re always a military child.
I’ve loved my experience of being a part of the military, despite the hardships we often face. Unlike many civilians, I’ve been able to live in so many parts of the UK and abroad within such a small period of my life. We’ve found we’ve been well looked after, with plenty on offer to keep us busy, like Happy Hour at the mess every Friday when we were kids, where we made sofa forts and tore up the bar and raced down those long corridors until our faces matched those gopping carpets. Funfairs and events were frequently held on base for families to attend, and it was especially important to attend when my Dad was overseas to socialise with kids that were feeling the same as me.
The biggest part of military life is the frequent moving from place to place, school to school and is where I suffered the most with our lifestyle. Our family found ourselves moving nearly every two years up until I was twelve and we settled in RAF High Wycombe for nearly nine years. Moving as a young child never bothered me much, it was how we lived, and we just got on with it. Friends came and went all the time, that was just how it was on base with other military kids. It wasn’t until I was eight and we’d moved back from Germany to St George’s Barracks and attended civi-school that the reality of being a military child sunk in. I joined in year four, where all the kids were already friends for years. I was a really quiet and shy child and making friends was challenging at the best of times but after a long adjusting period, I settled in and saw out the rest of my primary years there. I made friends with many civilian kids and more military children eventually joined, one of which is still one of my closest friends nearly twelve years on.
From there, apparently, I was desperate to go to boarding school (for reasons I still cannot possibly understand) so became a weekly boarder for two years. The first year can probably be compared loosely to hell, I hated it and I hated being away from home. There were a couple of military kids across the years, but none were like me and I struggled to find things in common with the others. Once settled, the second year was much better, I’d established good friends and being away was easier and I might have actually enjoyed it (but don’t tell my parents that, I’ve never let them live it down allowing me to go!). I had the most wonderful boarding master who was an army reserve who looked after me when I was down and understood me. After that, it was back to civi-school, joining in year nine this time. Luckily, I already knew the area and patch we lived on as my Dad began commuting. I’d never met any of the other kids there but getting on the coach to school with them every day allowed me to get to know them and others and we’ve been tight for around seven years now. Making friends and meeting new people has become second nature, and now living at university (albeit 5 hours away from home at the other end of the country) I don’t think twice or get as nervous about meeting new people.
We’ve recently moved to Northwood Headquarters after a long time of being settled which wasn’t an easy move despite mostly living away at university. It’s a bit too built up and bleak for me and it was a shame to move from the beautiful countryside of Buckinghamshire but luckily, we’re not too far away to pop over.
Despite finding much of our lifestyle trying at times, the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met have been completely worth it. We lived in JHQ in Germany, one of my favourite postings, where the base was its own country, equipped with everything you could need within a five-minute drive, including a cinema and swimming pool. It was great! I met kids from America, Canada and Germany to name a few, who I would have been less likely to meet in the UK and got to experience a part of their culture and tradition and learn all about them. We got to explore Germany, having weekend bike rides through the cornfields behind our house to the Hariksee lake for Kaffee und Kucken. We got to go to Carnival in the streets of Mönchengladbach, where we were battling sheep umbrellas in the brutal rain and winds, dodging sweet packets being lobbed at us from buses and floats. Despite feeling a million miles away from family in the UK, we were fortunate that my Grandad lived close to us in Germany and we got to spend more time together. It was much easier to access other countries and we spent much of our holiday road-tripping through Europe.
Being a military child has given me a sense of massive pride knowing we’re doing a service to our country. I’ve met some incredible people; made friends for life and experienced things some people could only dream of. It’s brought me and my brother closer, knowing that sometimes all we have is each other for a friend. And it doesn’t go without saying a massive thank you to my Mum. She has been my saviour throughout all my life. She made adjusting to schools and home so much easier, letting us make it homely and being my network of support when I needed it. She always dealt with my Dad being on deployment like a trooper, never making a it a fuss or a big deal, just treated it like it was and we got on with it despite how difficult it must have been raising two children singlehandedly for so many years.
Mum and Dad; thank you for the life you’ve given me. I wouldn’t change it for the world.