Following 17 years serving overseas in Germany and recently Cyprus, 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1 PWRR) has returned to the UK and is now resident in Royal Artillery Barracks Woolwich, London. AFF’s Overseas Manager, Esther Thomas was keen to hear how the big move went and how the unit’s families and soldiers were feeling…

Preparation started in September 2020 with an initial recce and briefings. As there were quite a few German spouses, AFF’s Foreign & Commonwealth team gave some guidance on the EU Settlement Scheme.

Susie, one such spouse, admits: “I didn’t think it would be an issue if we had to go to the UK. I’ve been married since 2006, lived in the UK from 2007 until 2012, had British children and a National Insurance number, so stupidly I didn’t look into it much early on.”

Despite her initial application being declined, our team was able to help. “I have to thank AFF for their support in my claim, I don’t think I would have had it sorted so quickly without them,” adds Susie.

Arriving in the UK

In total 145 families moved into quarters in Woolwich, a further 16 took the opportunity to live in their own homes, and others moved on to other postings in the UK.

The Yates family, who moved to York, say: “While we do appreciate being able to live in York, which seems an amazing place, this move has taken its toll on us on so many levels. We all feel mentally drained after weeks of being here.”

Their son Joel (13) has had particular issues settling in. He admits: “It was upsetting leaving all my good friends knowing I won’t see them often.

“I was worried that it would take me a long time to make new friends, especially as it’s not a military school. “It’s so much bigger than what I was used to.”

On a positive note, spouse Susi already has a job and their youngest son Theo (7) is happy to be closer to their wider family.

“We’re finally able to see my cousins, auntie, grandad, and great nana more often,” he says.

Financial impact

Back in Woolwich, another young spouse told AFF that the return to the UK was exciting, but overshadowed by concerns about finances. She believes that there are quite a few families who are struggling to budget and understand the differences of running a home in the UK compared to overseas.

“I feel a little unsettled as my husband was sent away days after our furniture was delivered,” she says. “There are still boxes all over and I’m struggling with a young baby.”

Despite being in a big city, she feels isolated, but not as much as she did overseas.

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