Sailors share Christmas cheer with veterans

Sailors from Portsmouth shared stories and mince pies with veterans in the run-up to Christmas.

Residents of Sirius Court in Southsea were visited by twenty Royal Navy volunteers from Portsmouth Naval Base who came to share some festive cheer. 

Sirius Court is one of six homes in the region owned by the Agamemnon Housing Association, an organisation that aims to provide affordable and sensitively managed sheltered housing for people over 60 years of age, giving priority to those who have served in the Armed Forces and their surviving partners or relatives.

Event organiser Lieutenant Kelly Jenkins-Hill is both an officer in the Royal Navy and a trustee of the association. She said: “The military and veterans share a unique understanding of service life, both the disadvantages of being away from family and friends when deployed on operations and the benefits of camaraderie and comradeship.

“I maintain the link between them through community engagement, coffee mornings and charity fund raising with the aim of promoting the well-being of both parties." 

Agamemnon Association CEO Nigel Langhorn said: “Most of the people here have got lots of great memories of their time in the service and the best thing they can do is to share that with the current serving personnel.

“We get them together every year and try to maintain the link between the old and new navy and they both learn something from each other, they get along like a house on fire. Give them a cup of tea and a mince pie and they’ll be absolutely fine, you’ll have trouble dragging some of them away once they’ve got an audience for their sea stories.”

The military and veterans share a unique understanding of service life

Lieutenant Kelly Jenkins-Hill

Able Seaman Grant Coleman was among the volunteers.  He said: “I’m a family person, some of the veterans here don’t have much family, with this time of the year being Christmas, it’s nice to come out and show them a bit of love, to engage with them, hear their stories, let them know what the navy’s like nowadays compared to when they were in. 

“I’ve been sat with two lovely ex-Wrens. They never used to go to sea and they were telling me what they used to do shore-side and I was explaining to them that women now go to sea and do the same jobs as us, it was really nice.”

Lieutenant Commander Laura Christie-Newman added: “I think it’s a great opportunity to share some stories, we have lots of traditions that remain the same, but lots of things have changed, especially for the younger sailors and those without family who have been in the service it’s great for them to be able hear some stories and see how we have progressed. 

“You can spend a lot of time doing your work and thinking about your operations. To take a step back and come out in to the community and talk to people and bring festive cheer, it’s a lovely positive thing to be doing.”   

Resident Nicky Hadley said: “It’s been lovely... as an ex-Wren of 22 years' service, to hear their experiences and what they do now, I was just a landlubber, an officer’s steward but now you can be a chef. That didn’t happen when I joined up.”