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Freemasons sign up to Armed Forces Covenant

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The Freemasons have signed the Armed Forces Covenant during a ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden on 20 October led by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent.

The partnership aims to support members of the Armed Forces community and ensure they have the same access to government as well as commercial services and products as any other citizen.

By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) will be able to demonstrate its support to members of the Armed Forces in a number of areas, including education, family wellbeing, getting a home, starting a new career, access to healthcare, financial assistance and discounted services.

UGLE has a strong Armed Forces background through its military Lodges. This partnership therefore represents an important step in further supporting both active and retired military personnel. Important Armed Forces personnel such as Admiral Sir Peter Parker, Francis Rawden-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, General Viscount Kitchener of Khartoum, Lieutenant Elias Henry Jones, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Cyril Louis Norton Newall, Commodore Wilfred Henderson and Thomas William Gould VC were all well-known Freemasons. 

UGLE’s Grand Master, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, has a longstanding relationship with the military. In 1955, The Duke of Kent graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as a Second Lieutenant. That was only the beginning of a military career that lasted more than 20 years.

He was promoted to Captain in 1961 and after having served in Hong Kong, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent was promoted again to Major in 1967. Three years later, he commanded a squadron of his regiment serving in the British Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus. In 1970, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, also served in Northern Ireland, before being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 30 June 1973.

The Duke retired from active service on 15 April 1976. He was subsequently promoted to Major General on 11 June 1983 and to Field Marshal on 11 June 1993.

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Major General Simon Graham and HRH The Duke of Kent at the signing the Armed Forces Covenant

His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, said: “It is my great pleasure to sign the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the United Grand Lodge of England. This document represents part of our ongoing commitment to support active and retired military personnel. We are proud of our long-standing relationship with the Armed Forces and we will continue to promote their welfare, support, and respect amongst all our members.” 

By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, UGLE demonstrates its intention to support the Armed Forces community which, in turn, allows UGLE to be recognised by the UK government’s Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS). An ERS award shows that the recipient is delivering tangible support for the Armed Forces community.

Major General Simon Graham, Director Reserves Army, signing of behalf of the Military of Defence, said: “The Armed Forces Covenant is a commitment to support those who have served and their families. The support of employers and making a public pledge of support to the Armed Forces community that they are valued by society is vital. This year we celebrate the Armed Forces Covenant’s 10th anniversary, and for centuries the United Grand Lodge of England has a solid connection to the Armed Forces, and it makes perfect sense for us to have the Freemasons signing up to Armed Forces Covenant this year. I’d like to thank the United Grand Lodge of England for supporting the Armed Forces community.”

Chelsea Pensioners and Johnson Beharry VC at the signing of the Armed Forces Covenant

Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive, said: “It is a great honour to be able to sign the Armed Forces Covenant. From its earliest foundations, Freemasonry has always had a strong relationship with the Armed Forces. Today, we want to thank those brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our country and the people who live here. They deserve all our thanks, our respect and this is one of many steps we aim to take in helping both active and retired members of the Armed Forces and their families.”

On the same day that the UGLE signed the covenant at Freemasons’ Hall, heads of Freemasonry in the Isle of Man, Cheshire, East Lancashire, West Lancashire and North Wales also made their commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant. This is in addition to Staffordshire and Yorkshire North and East Riding regions. In total 24 Provinces have either signed or will sign the Covenant. The Masonic Charitable Foundation and the RMBI will also sign the covenant in December 2021 at their AGM.

Lead image: HRH The Duke of Kent and Major General Simon Graham signing the Armed Forces Covenant

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Armed Forces

Cawdor Barracks extension welcomed

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Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson has welcomed the announcement that the planned closure of Cawdor Barracks, Brawdy, will be delayed until 2028.

The Barracks, home to 14 Signal Regiment, had originally been due to close in 2024.

The extension announcement was made by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on Thursday, November 25.

Cllr Simpson said: “Pembrokeshire and Pembrokeshire County Council is rightly proud of its long and close working relationship with the Armed Forces and especially proud to be home to 14 Signal Regiment at Cawdor Barracks.

“The soldiers of 14 Signal Regiment are very much part of the local community – many soldiers’ families have made Pembrokeshire their home – and the Barracks has an important role in the local economy.

“It is good news that Cawdor Barracks will remain open until at least 2028 and we remain hopeful that the Barracks could still continue beyond that date, further extending the close ties between 14 Signal Regiment, Pembrokeshire and this Authority.”

The news was also welcomed by local MP, Stephen Crabb who said the extension provided clarity for the soldiers and their families based in Pembrokeshire, as well as being good news for the local community.

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Mr Crabb said: “There is no question that Cawdor Barracks is an important strategic asset for the MOD and to the Pembrokeshire economy.

“A deep bond of affection and respect has developed between our community and the 14 Signal Regiment during the time they have been based at Brawdy.

“Local people will welcome the fact that the soldiers and their families will continue to be a valued part of Pembrokeshire life for some years to come.

“Following my parliamentary debate on the future of Cawdor Barracks in February 2020, I was pleased to welcome the Defence Minister, Jeremey Quinn MP, to Pembrokeshire to see the base for himself and to meet with local soldiers.

“This is very positive news today, but I will continue to make the case for the Barracks to remain in Pembrokeshire permanently and will be seeking longer-term clarity from the MOD about its future.”

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(Lead image: MOD)

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Armed Forces

Little Troopers at School: Swansea military children take part in charity workshop 

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Military children from four primary schools in and around Swansea took part in a free virtual workshop run by the charity Little Troopers.

The children, who all have parents currently serving in the British Armed Forces, logged in to the Little Troopers at School workshop with 260 other children from across Wales. 

Using storytelling, imaginative play, drawing, movement and drama, the children got to explore some of the unique challenges that forces life can bring, such as having a parent deployed overseas and regularly having to move home and school.

The schools that took part from Swansea included Ysgol Tan Y Lan, YGG Gellionnen, Penllergaer Primary School and Rhydyfro Primary School. 

The workshop was funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Trust and delivered as part of Supporting Service Children in Education (SSCE) Cymru, which is run by the Welsh Local Government Association and aims to provide the best possible educational support for Service children in Wales. There are estimated to be more than 2,500 military children in schools across the country. 

Kevin Davies, a teacher from YGG Gellionnen said: “The children thoroughly enjoyed the activities and were beaming at the end of the session.” 

Louise Fetigan, founder and operations manager at Little Troopers, comments: “We were delighted to be asked by the Welsh Government Association to deliver some of our Little Troopers at School resources to children in Wales through this virtual workshop. Our charity is committed to ensuring that all schools have a good understanding of the unique challenges that military life can bring and that all military children can access support at school if they need it. We hope that the children have had lots of fun today and enjoyed coming together to celebrate what it really means to be a ‘Little Trooper’.” 

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The workshop is part of a wider nationwide partnership between Little Troopers and SSCE Cymru which has also seen 400 primary schools in Wales receive bilingual versions of Little Troopers storybooks for their school libraries and 100 schools given bilingual copies of the Little Troopers Primary Wellbeing Course template; a six-week course focusing on the themes of belonging, identity, mindfulness, managing change and coping with separation. 

Millie Taylor, SSCE Cymru Programme Manager, adds: “It’s really important that all schools have a welcoming Armed Forces friendly environment and that service children feel acknowledged and supported. Our partnership with Little Troopers has really helped us to achieve this by providing fundamental resources, that are specifically catered towards supporting service children, to all schools in Wales. This week’s workshop has been a real celebration of service children and their experiences and we hope to build on the success of SSCE Cymru in 2022; continuing to provide all service children in Wales with the support they deserve.” 

For more information visit www.littletroopers.net and www.SSCECymru.co.uk

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Swansea

Fund established to support city’s veterans

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Swansea armed forces veterans are being urged to take advantage of a Veterans’ Fund set up by the Council.

The £25,000 fund was agreed by the Council as part of its budget for 2021/22 and armed forces veterans can apply to the fund for help.

The fund is among a range of support available to veterans or serving members of the armed forces under the council’s Armed Forces Community Covenant.

Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council, said: “On Remembrance Day we should never forget that support for the armed forces is a year-round duty for us all.

“The veterans’ budget aims to provide a little bit of extra support to veterans or serving members of the armed forces.

He said: “The fund will support initiatives which address veterans issues, and the veterans themselves.  The fund welcomes new initiatives/innovations and will seed fund new ideas.

“Charitable or voluntary organisations, those with charitable objectives and not-for-private-profit organisations, are eligible apply. If the grant is to support an individual the grant will be paid via the applicant organisation, individuals cannot apply for Grant funding directly.”

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Wendy Lewis, the council’s armed forces champion, said: “I meet with veterans and veterans’ groups frequently and I know just how important it is to them that the community around them are supportive.

“I’m confident this new fund will also make a difference to those who need it.”

Cllr Lewis said: “Communities in Swansea have a proud heritage of service in the armed forces. Our support for past and current members of the armed forces is unstinting and year-round.

“As a council we’ve also made a commitment to adopt our city’s community war memorials and cenotaphs to ensure they are looked after for future generations. It’s been a job the veterans have done for many years.

“But we want to reassure them that their communities are playing their part too for the future.”

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The application page for grants will be going on the Council’s Armed Forces web page in the coming days.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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