One thing I love about army life is that each time we move there is the opportunity to meet new people and forge new friendships. We are currently in the middle of the fourth posting since we got married five years ago and as it is our first posting abroad and the first time that I haven’t been working full-time I will admit that I was a little bit nervous about this move.
My initial experience of army life was weekends in Germany staying with my then boyfriend (now husband) in the Officer’s Mess of an Infantry battalion. From what I saw from the outside, married life within the battalion provided a ready made close knit community. When we moved to our first married quarter in Tidworth I therefore expected something similar. It was not to be! My husband was working in a Brigade Headquarters where he was the only Captain whose wife was living in Tidworth and where we were, initially at least, the only married couple actually living in army accommodation as others owned their own houses. This meant that an army social life was harder to find and I was just lucky that in my new job I became close friends with one of my new colleagues. Coincidentally her husband was also in the army and shared a mess with my husband so we saw a lot of each other and all got on really well!
Our next posting was to Shrivenham and despite only being for 7 months was absolutely fantastic. We built friendships that have survived subsequent postings and it was a brilliantly sociable time. Warminster was equally enjoyable (despite dealing with an Afghan deployment in the middle of it) and I was really sad to leave. We were lucky that that the patch we lived on was very sociable and that we had excellent neighbours who we got on with and enjoyed spending time with. When my husband deployed to Afghanistan my American neighbours were truly amazing; checking up on me each weekend to make sure I was okay, inviting me to all sorts of parties and celebrations and always sending me home with a mountain of food (Thanksgiving lasted for three days in my house!) Whilst I wouldn’t say that the deployment flew by it was made a great deal easier by the kindness of those around me. During this posting I was also able to join the Military Wives Choir and this was brilliant for meeting new people who might not have crossed my path ordinarily. Having the chance to be involved in the Queen’s Jubilee single ‘Sing’ was a massive highlight and one that I will always associate with our time in Warminster. Again, we left Warminster with another group of people who we have so far kept in contact with – indeed it was on a list of must visit destinations when we came back to the UK to show off our new baby!
This German posting has been different to our previous ones because I haven’t worked (at least not for any great length of time) and we now have a baby. Being a mum has opened up another branch of army friendships and I am lucky in that the regiment my husband is working with are really friendly and I therefore have a pretty good daytime social life. The bulk of that now revolves around our little boy but I’m enjoying building friendships with other mums which will in turn form T’s first friendships. As I will be returning to work part-time in September I want to ensure I have built up these friendships so that I can maintain mummy time alongside work. One lovely element of this posting has been that some good friends from Shrivenham and a friend from Warminster have also been posted here for the same amount of time as us and so that has been two friendships that haven’t had to be started from scratch!
Army life has taught me that good friendships can survive distance and time apart and can be picked up where they were left off. My non army friendships may have diminished in number slightly since I left London and started moving all the time but the friends that matter are still there and are the people that I try to see when we make it back to the UK. I have four really close friendships that have survived long periods of not seeing each other and I know that these friendships will last long into the future. I then also have the friendships I have made through the army. These are a mixture of friendships that develop during one posting and that are maintained during subsequent postings through Facebook, greetings cards and texts and those that serve a purpose during the posting but then subsequently fizzle out. I have learnt that this is okay and that it doesn’t make them lesser friendships – in fact in many cases it is these friendships that I link to a particular posting and enable me to look back happily on our experiences in the army. The very nature of army life is that people are always moving on and accepting that not all friendships last beyond a particular posting has reminded me how important it is to nurture the friendships that matter.
On Sunday we had a barbecue which, in my eyes, truly summed up friendship in the army. We had our friends who we first met in Shrivenham, some of my husband’s colleagues and their families (one family about to leave, one just arrived) and new friends who we met through ante-natal classes and who T and I now spend a considerable amount of time with. Watching all the children play together in the garden (most of which had never met before) I realised how much I love that this somewhat transitory lifestyle brings so many new people into our lives. This sort of community doesn’t really exist in civilian life and I think that that is a bit of a shame! When we leave Germany next summer I know that I will leave with a load of new Facebook friends who understand this lifestyle and who support each other (mostly electronically!) through the exercises, deployments and long working hours that we all have to deal with. I will also leave with a handful of new friends who I will stay in greater contact with and who I will hopefully see again either on future postings (when we all invariably live in Wiltshire….) or when we are passing through whichever place they are based. I feel truly blessed to be a part of such an amazing bunch of people and look forward to meeting lots more amazing people as we continue our army journey.