Barnsley Chronicle Column: Meeting Barnsley's Armed Forces community

I was recently fortunate enough to spend an evening with the men and women of the Barnsley branch of the York and Lancaster Regimental Association.

The branch is made up of ex-service people and their families, and is drawn from a broad range of armed forces backgrounds, not just the Yorkshire Regiment. This mix of personalities and pasts combine to create a hugely welcoming and enjoyable community club. One where, despite the usual mickey-taking about me being an ex-para, I had a great time.

We compared notes and exchanged stories about our time in the armed forces. We chatted about what is important to us – service, patriotism, integrity and camaraderie. Roger Helm told us what duties the Yorkshire Regiment is currently undertaking, and we all agreed about what a great job the UK armed forces is doing in defending the UK and its interests. We should always remember that even when they are not in the headlines, our armed forces remain busy working around the world, promoting peace, tackling drug smugglers, providing security and fighting terrorism.

We also discussed the members’ plans for the branch and what is keeping them busy. One leading member, Tony Simpson, is working with Father Phil Lamb to build and install some remembrance benches; one for the peace gardens in Barnsley town centre and one to remember Matthew Thornton who died whilst serving with the 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment in Afghanistan in 2011. Another member, Craig Savage, is producing embroidered shirts for everyone in the branch. Whilst Steve Roper is doing a great job by taking on the major task of organising the Armed Forces Day event in Penistone.

This year, Armed Forces Day is taking place on Saturday 24th June. It is a chance for the British public to show their support for the men and women who make up the armed forces community. This includes everyone from serving troops and their families to reserves, veterans and cadets. There are many ways for the people of Barnsley to show their support and get involved, from throwing a party to attending an organised event.

In Barnsley town centre, the Mayor will be hosting a parade outside the Town Hall. Whilst next door, in Penistone, Spike Mayston and Steve Roper are organising a military style show including marching bands; a Royal Navy field gun competition; a junior assault course; private collectors of military vehicles; army surplus and collectibles and even an army field kitchen for catering. Running between 11am and 5pm it should be a great day out for all the family. Angela Smith MP and I will both be there to support it.

As well as organising this type of local activity, regimental associations, branches of the Royal British Legion and veterans’ breakfast clubs (such as the one that meets every Saturday morning at The Joseph Bramah) provide a hugely important support network for all members of the armed forces community. In Barnsley, we are fortunate to be well served by these organisations, and I am hugely grateful for the work they do and support they provide.

For those interested, the Barnsley branch of the York and Lancaster Regimental Association meets every second Monday of the month, at 1930, at the Army Reserve Centre on Wakefield Road Barnsley. They welcome anyone with a background in the armed forces and I am sure you will get as warm a welcome.

This article was first publish in the Barnsley Chronicle on Friday 28 April 2017.

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