Labour’s Lincoln parliamentary candidate Lucy Rugby discusses the great memories of her army childhood
Like many Echo readers, I attended a number of Remembrance events last month. There can be few cities in the UK which do Remembrance Sunday as well as Lincoln and I have no doubt that next year’s ceremonies, which will mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, will be more moving and more well done than ever.
Lincolnshire, of course, has a special role in the history of our Armed Forces and countless lives in our city have been touched by military service, both those individuals who have served and their families, too.
I have to confess that this year’s services were even more moving for me than they have been previously, probably because I now have my own offspring which has caused me to think a lot about my own childhood memories of service life.
I was born on RAF Wegberg near JHQ Rheindahlen and, for the next 25 or so years, my family lived on RAF or Army bases.
My dad served in the Royal Engineers and we moved around frequently. And I mean very frequently. By the time I was 12, I’d already been to nine schools. You’d have thought this would be hard in terms of making and breaking friendships – not to mention continuity of education – but I don’t remember resenting it, it was just what we did.
There were some great aspects of base life. For one, there was always a real sense of community, something I think a lot of civilian streets have come to lack.
Whenever we moved, or someone moved in on our street, people were always friendly.
My mum or dad would go round to say hello and help people get to know an area – just as others did for us. That was the done thing.
The facilities available to families were usually good, too – brilliant for me and my sisters. In Rheindahlen, there was a huge outdoor swimming pool, loads of playgrounds, a PX (the American Forces’ store where we got Tootsie Rolls and other exciting sweets), an English cinema; it was great.
What’s more, the environment seemed safe for children. My mum didn’t worry too much about us going to the playpark at the end of the road by ourselves because of the strict security to get on base.
However, it goes without saying that there were incredibly tough aspects to base life, especially looking back now through my parents’ eyes.
When my dad went away to Bosnia for a year, for example, I was plenty old enough to realise my mum found that time very difficult.
The ever present IRA threat was often frightening, too. I remember my parents were given a long-handled mirror so as to be able to check under the car for explosives before each journey and my dad explaining to me why he would always change out of his uniform when we went off base.
Every year, the time before Christmas makes me think of the very long car journeys we used to do back to the UK to see family, usually catching the Zeebrugge-Felixstowe ferry.
As Christmas approaches this year and I am lucky enough to be spending it with my family, I will be sparing a thought for the thousands of our servicemen and women serving our country abroad – and their families.