If we are lucky enough, we meet some fantastic friends as we journey through life. But for some people, making friends takes time.
Being a Gunner means working as a team with a set of friends – working together for the same goals in what can sometimes be extremely difficult circumstances. For a lot of serving Gunners, this camaraderie is absolutely vital for them to get through training or tours. But what happens when your army career is over?
Major SR Wilkinson RA, Unit Welfare Officer of the 12 Regt RA, says:
“When you join the services, you are a mixed bunch with a wide range of backgrounds. You quickly learn about yourself and others and due to the nature of your work, you are able to integrate quicker and work as a team. “The biggest challenge I hear is the lack of comradeship after leaving the forces. Many of my friends tell me that working in civvy street is nothing like the service – the banter, the reliability and the shared sense of belonging. Exceptions to this would be similar organisations such as the Fire Service and Police.”
How we can help
The Royal Artillery Association is the Gunner Friend Network and is there to support Gunners throughout their lives. Through the Royal Artillery Charitable Fund (RACF), financial help can be given but there is also a lot of checking in with Gunners who are finding it tricky no longer being part of a unit. Even with letters and reminders, there are still those who feel like they have lost their mates, and who might be lonely now that they are no longer in active service.
Civvy Street can be a culture shock. Making solitary decisions can sometimes be hard to do if people have been in the army since their late teens. For some people, this isn’t a problem at all, but for some Gunners, leaving this network of daily habits and routines, it can be extremely unnerving and can lead to loneliness and depression.
Major Wilkinson adds:
“The biggest barrier I see is Gunners actually admitting that help is needed - not just financially, but emotionally too. Pride is the biggest demon to overcome, but once you do, the help is there. The Soldiers and families that have benefitted from the RACF are so grateful and it is evident to see when they are getting support that they feel like they are no longer on their own.”
If you are still serving and need financial or welfare support you can speak to your welfare officer, your local SSAFA branch https://www.ssafa.org.uk/find-us or ring us on 01980 634309.
If you are a former Gunner and you need some help financially, contact us via SSAFA https://www.ssafa.org.uk/find-us or ring us on 01980 634309.
If you are struggling with the lack of friendship or camaraderie, the Royal Artillery Association can help. You can find out where your local branch is here. Go along to some of the meetings and events and you will find Gunners who also miss that bond and want to still feel connection with other Gunners who have been in similar situations. Your new best friend could be there waiting, or you never know, you might recognise some old faces and meet some former colleagues from your serving days!
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