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Comradeship, Banter & Breakfast

Orkney Armed Forces’ and Veterans’ Breakfast Club – 26th August 2023

As usual, military veterans of all three services got together for breakfast on the last Saturday of the month, this time in the St Magnus Cafe, Kirkwall. Covid notwithstanding, this is something they have been doing every month since January 2017 and membership continues to grow; their ranks now numbering over 100.

This is the second time the group have been to this cafe and, on this occasion, they were given the use of an adjoining meeting room where tea and coffee was provided so they could sit back and relax in each other’s company without preventing other customers from enjoying the rest of the facilities.

One stalwart of the group is ex-soldier, Mike Lucas, who spent just under 44 years in the service, including eighteen years in the Territorial Army, where he served as a medic in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Having joined as a Boy Soldier in 1966, he later saw service around the world in countries such as Germany, Cyprus and Trucial Oman, (now the UAE). He also spent time in Northern Ireland.

Mike Lucas pictured at the veterans breakfast club
Mike Lucas at breakfast in the St Magnus Cafe, Kirkwall, with the Orkney Armed Forces’ & Veterans’ Breakfast Club. Saturday 26th August 2023

Early on in his career, Mike received a commendation for his courage, skill and devotion to duty, for his part in the rescue of a soldier who had fallen down a cliff in South Wales:

“Imagine the Gloup in Deerness; a big hole. Basically, he’d fallen down one of them. He’d had a dog with him and the dog had come back. Somebody went out, and they could see he was in a state, about 200 feet down a sheer cliff. Myself and a Sergeant climbed down, me with my medical pack.

“He was a mess; fractured skull, punctured lungs, both fib and tib gone, and a femur, and all sorts of other injuries. The sergeant went up and got help, and I stayed with him and basically, put him back together. But I didn’t think he was going to live; I just did what I did as a medic, with the kit I had with me.

“The RNLI couldn’t get in. The tide was coming in, it was quite rough seas and I was getting wet. I’d shielded him, but the spray kept coming over us as the sea hit the rocks. Eventually, one of the cliff rescue team came down and we got him into a stretcher, got him up and into a hospital. He had massive, massive injuries; but he survived.

“I got a commendation certificate for what I did, but I was just doing my job; what I’d been trained for. It was what I did as a medic. But I can still see the state of him; eighteen months in hospital, but he survived”

Mike moved to Orkney with his late wife, Jill, 23 years ago. Although he was born in Southampton, he was educated in Scotland and served his time with Scottish regiments.

Since finally leaving the Army, Mike has become a senior representative of the forces charity, SSAFA, (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association). He became a case worker six years ago, but after two years in the role he also became the chairman for Orkney & Shetland.

“SSAFA looks out for service and ex-service men and women, or their families, that may need some form of support, be it financial or social, to get themselves back on an even keel. We have lots of veterans who find themselves homeless and we can work with the local authorities, if necessary. That’s not happened here, for me, because we have a good housing association that will place people.

“I could be dealing with someone that needs a new kitchen, or it could be someone who is looking for work; I can link them directly with the Department of Work and Pensions, (DWP), their Forces Champion is very good. There might be someone with financial difficulties; I’ll be looking out for benefits they might be entitled to, for example.

“I can also contact the various regimental and service associations and charities for support, such as Poppy Scotland and the RN Benevolent Trust or the Army and Air Force’s equivalents, to see if they would be willing to offer support. For example, a few years ago, the RAF Benevolent Fund helped provide one of their veterans with a mobility scooter. But it’s not just about offering money or goods; organisations like these can also help with mental health problems”.

Mike’s been going to breakfast with the veterans since they began. He doesn’t get to every one, but goes as often as he can:

“I think it’s the comradeship of all three services, and the banter; that we all served together, we’re all pals together. We may not necessarily agree on everything, but it’s a welfare process, it’s really, really good. We can chat away until our hearts content, blethering away; old soldiers, old sailors and old air force bods.

“From my SSAFA point of view, I can keep my ear to the ground if something is wrong. A couple of times veterans have asked me to look at a person to see if I can help. That’s good. It shows that we are inclusive; it’s a body that encourages like minded service personnel to get together and help each other.

“If there’s a lonely ex-serviceman or woman somewhere, that maybe doesn’t get out much, I’d encourage them to come along. It will give them a feeling of belonging and we want to help people”.

The Orkney Armed Forces’ & Veterans’ Breakfast Club meets once a month at various cafes, restaurants and hotels around Orkney to eat, enjoy each other’s company and maintain the camaraderie and esprit de corps they shared whilst serving. There’s no admin fees or paperwork involved, the only thing you pay for is your food and drinks.

Breakfasts run from 0930 – 1100 (ish). If you’re the boss of a business that could possibly host the veterans for breakfast, one Saturday morning, please get in touch. This month we had 27 attendees.

If you are a forces veteran, or their immediate family, you’re welcome to join us. We also welcome current members of the armed forces, Regulars and Reserves, as well of those who serve or served any other country.

More details are available on the group’s Facebook page

or you can call or email Simon
on: 07909 640884. orkneyveransbreakfastclub@outlook.com.

The next breakfast is scheduled for 0930 Saturday 30th September at the Stromness Hotel. We look forward to seeing you.

Adrian Hughes

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