My Armed Forces journey

28 Jun 2024
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An old photo of a young man in army fatigues next to the logo for Military@SGN

It’s Armed Forces Week and all week we’re hearing from former service personnel who have joined us as part of their transition to civilian life. Chris is a Policy Engineer - here's his story. 


The Armed Forces have played a significant role in my life. My journey with them started when I was 12 years old, joining the Air Training Corps (ATC). During my time there, I became a staff cadet and was responsible for training younger cadets in areas such as the history and principles of flight, map reading, navigation and much more. I achieved my ATC marksman and RAF marksman badges while I was there and started shooting for the Sussex team. I was also in their 5-a-side football team, hockey and rugby teams, playing for Sussex before going on to play hockey for London and South East Region. I flew multiple times and went on some amazing adventure training and summer camps. This included two weeks in Cyprus at RAF Akrotiri where I met the Red Arrows, took a tour of the aircraft and met the pilots.

At 16, I wanted to join the Royal Marines but I didn’t have enough GCSEs to do that. So I thought “I love spending time with the RAF Regiment” so let’s try for that. I did my aptitude test and they said I should return to college and come back to become an Intelligence Officer. I really didn’t want that and was quite upset. As I was leaving the Armed Forces Career Office, a Sergeant from the Army approached me and said I could choose what I wanted to be in the Army. I said I knew lots about the Marines and the RAF but not a lot about the Army. He suggested the Territorial Army which would give me the same training and I’d get to see the Army before joining full time.

Joining the Territorial Army

In 2001, I joined the 3rd Battalion Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, B (Royal Sussex) Company, 4 Rifle Platoon. Back then, there was a one-day initial fitness and mental testing, then Phase 1 training was five full weekends at Crowborough Army Training Camp. This was followed by Phase 2 training which was two full weeks at Catterick Garrison.

During my time in the TA, I had training camps at Sennybridge, Salisbury Plain and a few other sites in the UK. I made a few good friends and since leaving and joining the regimental association, I now have close friends who, although I didn’t meet in service, the service is what has brought us together. I ended up leaving in 2005 due to a knee injury, although I always hoped to return so I said I left for other reasons. The knee injury has troubled me for years and I’m now awaiting surgery.

There was a saying in the Army and is still used to this day: Train Hard, Fight Easy. I use this every day still; it’s why I sometimes may come across as blasé when dealing with difficult situations. The Army taught us to not to get overwhelmed and approach each situation in a positive way. The Armed Forces gave me a sense of purpose. That’s why, after leaving, I struggled as I felt I wasn’t giving back enough to the community.

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A man riding a motorbike in rainy conditions with other motorbikes behind

Royal British Legion Riders and Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers

In 2014, I joined the Royal British Legion Riders (RBLR) Branch. We basically ride motorbikes and raise money for the RBL and the Poppy Appeal. Every year there is an event called Ride to The Wall where many thousands of motorbikes ride to the National Memorial Arboretum. Although this isn’t a RBLR event lots of us attend.

I then joined Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers or SERV for short. We are also known as Blood Bikers. We take blood, blood products, samples and more, to hospitals in Sussex. We operate in evenings, weekends and bank holidays and help the NHS save lives. Some members also help collect and transport donated human breast milk.

I also volunteer for my son’s football team, Worthing Dynamos. I always helped set the pitches out and set up the goals but last year, I took on the admin for the team and I’m now an assistant coach. At the moment with my knee I can’t kick the ball without causing a lot of pain so I help with training and give advice when and where it’s needed.

The Armed Forces made me the person I am today. Although I didn’t complete an operational tour (thanks to my knees) I feel proud of the service I completed and the regiment I was a part of.