UK’s Last Armed Forces Covenant Will Be Signed Today In Scilly

Commander Tom Herman at the Five Islands School yesterday

Commander Tom Herman at the Five Islands School yesterday

 

Children from the Five Islands School watched as the Navy search and rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose landed on their playing field yesterday morning.

It marked the start of two-days of events celebrating the signing of the Armed Forces Community Covenant by the Islands’ Council.

Commander Tom Herman, the Deputy Naval Regional Commander for Wales and the West of England, says today’s ceremony on board HMS Mersey is an important moment for the armed forces.

It’s the last covenant in the whole country to be signed, and he says it’s fitting that it should happen at its most south-westerly outpost.

The covenants were started by former Prime Minister Tony Blair during the war in Afghanistan. Cmdr Herman says as the casualties were mounting, the government of the time realised the link between the forces and society was getting weaker.

Tom says they’re voluntary and don’t commit the local authority to spending lots of extra money. But they try to focus attention on the special needs of service men and women, their families, reservists and veterans.

Because service families move around often, they sometimes struggle with things such as medical waiting lists, housing or finding places in schools.

In return, authorities that sign up to the covenant can access grants of up to quarter of a million pounds to help fund projects to support the armed forces in their areas.

Tom says over £1m was handed out in the south west last year.

Yesterday, all school children got a tour of the RNAS Culdrose helicopter, while Cmdr Herman spoke to the year 9 class about the covenant and careers in the military.

He said it’s a chance to impress the youngsters, who will be the military personnel of the future.

This lunchtime, a delegation of twenty people representing the Council, businesses and veterans’ charities will attend the signing of the covenant on board the patrol vessel HMS Mersey. The Navy’s flagship HMS Bulwark had been due to attend but got called away on operational duties elsewhere last weekend.

At 5.30pm there’ll be a special sunset ceremony for the public at the Star Castle to commission the covenant, with prayers led by Canon Paul Miller and with buglers from 6th Battalion The Rifles.

The signing will also mark a new relationship with our nearest military station, HMS Seahawk at Culdrose, the base for the Navy’s search and rescue helicopters. Representatives from there will now sit on the islands’ covenant panel.

Cmdr Herman says it’s clear to him that we already have an “intimate” relationship with this base. He joked that within the first hour he’d been on the islands yesterday, he spoke to at least ten people who had been in the back of the Culdrose chopper, either unwell or giving birth.