You’re in the army now

Alyce Wynne of Thornton Cleveleys, who is joining army as reme avionics engineer.
Alyce Wynne of Thornton Cleveleys, who is joining army as reme avionics engineer.
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Former Poulton schoolgirl Alyce Wynne is 16 and already an avid watcher of the news.

“You have to be,” says Alyce, who has just left Hodgson High School. “I’m in the Army now. You have to know what’s going on in the world.”

Army recruits are actively encouraged to be aware of world affairs, and the British Army’s role within them, and realise the extent of their commitment to Queen and country.

Blackpool specialist Army careers officers Staff Sergeant Andy Stewart and Colour Sgt Andy Power say the North West remains one of the richest recruitment grounds for the British Army.

And that’s through bad times as well as good.

History will teach us where 27 recruits who have just sworn the oath of allegiance at Blackpool Town Hall will stand.

It’s nerve-racking for the 22 young men and five young women taking the oath in the presence of the Queen’s representative in Blackpool, Mayor Coun Joan Greenhalgh, even with the process hastened by Major Mark Steventon swearing in groups, rather than individuals.

And it’s a proud moment for parents and loved ones watching with mixed emotions.

The Army is well above recruitment targets locally, even when so many of the older guard face redundancy – some of it compulsory and the Army is bearing the brunt of the cutbacks.

Even when up against the odds, the Fylde coast can be counted upon to deliver fine soldiers. For Coun Greenhalgh, herself a fighter, refusing to allow a stroke to prevent her from fulfilling her civic duty, it’s a pivotal point too.

“I am enormously proud of these brave young men and women, and this town for producing them,” the Mayor says.

Alyce says the feeling’s mutual. “I looked at her and thought what a lovely strong lady she must be,” she says of the town’s first citizen.

Alyce, who lives in Thornton, is aware of the redundancies in the Army, the death toll in Afghanistan, and the fact that one historic Lancashire regiment, the now defunct Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, has to fight to restore its honour having emerged from the Baha Mousa inquiry with blood on its hands.

“I still feel proud to be joining the Army,” says Alyce, who’s off to become an avionics engineer with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers. “REME has got a fantastic reputation. I want to be part of it.

“The cutbacks are saddening, the Government won’t give more money, yet spend on foreign aid. I can’t understand it.

“The mistreatment of prisoners was an isolated incident. Stuff like that shouldn’t happen, and only does because certain individuals choose to do it – not everybody in the Army.

“But this is still a dream job. I just know I can do it.

“I go to Winchester next week and will be there until March. I’m 17 in April and will join my regiment.

“I think it’s harder for a woman, only five of the 27 recruits were girls. But I think other girls are missing out on a really good way of life. It’s a real opportunity for me.”

Former Kirkham Grammar pupil Sam Fuentes Moreno, 16, also of Thornton Cleveleys, agrees. He’s also training to become a REME avionics engineer. The pre-selection training wasn’t so gruelling as he plays rugby. “The football players were struggling more!” He enjoyed the team building exercises too. “It’ a great leveller, you get to work with people from different backgrounds.”

He’s become an avid news watcher. “I’ve wanted to join the army since I was a kid. I think it’s a really good thing to do.

“You don’t hear much about REME, but they do a lot of good work, and risk their lives too and keep everyone else on the move.

“My family’s up for it, and my school understood why I wouldn’t be going back after GCSEs too. I thought of sixth form, but employment prospects are bleak.

“All I want to do is make the world a safer place to be honest. I can’t wait to go somewhere!”