There’s a lot to consider when your Army family moves – housing, jobs, schools and the practical logistics of simply getting from A-to-B. When a whole unit or battalion is due a posting at the same time, it becomes a military operation for the organisers, particularly for regiments overseas. We look at how some mass moves are managed…
EVERY three or four years, the Royal Gurkha Rifles in Brunei rotates with its sister battalion based in Shorncliffe, Kent. For some, this routine move is second nature but for new families, especially those who have come directly from Nepal, it can be a daunting prospect. However, help is at hand.
For this summer’s move, family briefings started back in November last year, with AFF’s former Brunei Co-ordinator Michelle Gurung on hand at each one to support families. She said: “I referred issues to AFF’s specialists and raised concerns to the unit welfare team.”
Second Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (2 PWRR) has been filtering back to Cottesmore from Cyprus over the summer. Getting information out to families and co-ordinating documentation has been key to ensuring the move has gone smoothly.
“In contrast to an individual move, the process is completed for the family,” said 2 PWRR’s unit welfare officer. “It can give them the feeling that they have little control, but this is normal as a unit move requires deadlines for documentation, removals, visas, schooling, flights, hotels, surveys, and other numerous activities to be sequenced to move within a given timeline.”
Esme Bayliss, whose husband Adam is a corporal in 2 PWRR, said: “When we came to Cyprus as individual movers, every element of the move required us to contact different people and organisations, chase up applications, and we were only given information at the last minute – it was stressful and quite daunting.
“This time everything has been planned for us and although this means that some appointments are dictated, we know a lot more about the upcoming move.
“The only downside is that it feels like the move has been ‘imminent’ for the last six months and the preparation for it seems to have taken up a big chunk of our time here.”
Four 2 PWRR family members accompanied the welfare team on a recce to their new location in Rutland a few months before the move and the findings were presented to all families back in Cyprus after the visit.
“Feedback was positive,” added the UWO. “It was essential to minimise rumours.”
A secret Facebook page was critical in streamlining the move process and making the information family-friendly. Briefings and visits by external guests were also a help.
Esme added: “The unit, clerks and battalion welfare team have been working tirelessly and we’ve been kept informed every step of the way.
“After families’ briefs, recces and presentations from CarillionAmey and Rutland Council, this is the most informed I have ever been about a move and the area we’re moving to.”
Overseas-to-UK school admissions are a huge challenge with such a large influx of new Service pupils. In Brunei, schools have facilitated a smooth transition, with exchange visits from head teachers, while 2 PWRR has been helped by a proactive county council in Rutland.
“We addressed key timelines and ensured all families had applications submitted. The school heads and staff also played a huge role in ensuring transfer of documents,” explained the UWO.
Sharmila Malla whose husband is in HQ Coy, 1 RGR, in Brunei, told us: “Initially it was confusing when applying online as it was asking for a UK address, but I used the Shorncliffe camp address and successfully registered. We’ve now received confirmation of my son’s school place and got our preferred choice.”
Such a large number of families leaving can create a hole in some areas of a garrison’s support network. Where a job role is deemed vital for continuity, recruitment from incoming families is considered essential in Brunei.
“Special arrangements have been put in place to advertise and interview spouses in the UK before they arrive,” added Michelle. “Vacancies in Shorncliffe camp are mainly managed by contractors however, 1 RGR organised a jobs fair in the UK for incoming spouses. The unit is liaising with RMP Brunei for spouses who need a Certificate of Good Conduct to work with vulnerable adults or children in the UK.”
Moving out, moving in
Managing move-outs has also presented challenges to families and welfare teams.
“Some families were concerned regarding the clarity of rules for move-out,” said AFF’s Regional Manager Cyprus Sarah Cooper. “The unit welfare team assured us that families were made aware of the options available and where to go for help.”
Arriving in the UK
Inflexible flights mean arrival in the UK is dependent on large numbers of SFA being ready and up to move-in standard. “If you don’t feel that your SFA is up to move-in standard, we would advise you to record issues on your SFA’s 14-day report,” said Michelle.
Both units have been mindful of helping families settle into their new surroundings. ‘Get you in’ packs were provided on arrival in Cottesmore. 2 PWRR also ran events to showcase all the local amenities and clubs that families can join.