How it started

How it started

I spent 10 years as an army wife and over the years I found there were gaps in the support system for the wives. Like everyone else when we moved I used the facilities of the Families Office. I can’t fault in their services when it came to moving and answering the day-to-day questions about living abroad and schools etc but I always used to think that the best people to talk to before you get there are other wives who have first hand experience. People who have been there and done it!

My first home as a WAG was in Catterick Garrison so it wasn’t such a big deal, no kids to worry about but I had no experience of the Army or what life would be like as a wife and no real idea as to how much of an impact on my life it would all have. Although, nothing could have prepared me for life abroad as a WAG. I was pregnant with my first son and having just had suffered 3 miscarriages it all felt a bit daunting when we moved to Fallingbostel. I spent my first handover standing stationary on a stain on the carpet trying to look pregnant and uncomfortable in the hope that he wouldn’t ask me to move!!!!! I was only about 14 weeks gone and wearing a huge maternity dress to look further on so that the Housing Officer would be lenient and take pity on us! It worked! I was so nervous it was bordering on hysterical. Of course I quickly learnt over the years all the tricks and tips other WAGS had learnt over the years. When we arrived in Germany it all seemed so confusing at times, and being away from family at a time when I needed them seemed to make it all the more harrowing. It seemed that as soon as we arrived my hubby was away all the time and I suffered several scares throughout the pregnancy which resulted in a life-threatening condition, being rushed to a hospital in Bremen from Fallingbostel, and a stay in intensive care and a premature baby. At that time the nearest hospital that was used was Rhintel which the docs deemed too far away and Walsrode was not equipped to deal with my condition and at that time in 1995 there was no English speaking facilities within the hospitals as there was when I had my second son in Hanover. So, as you can imagine it was all a bit scary! And so the saga continues to finding out about the schools if you have kids at school age. Where are the best shops, what the heck is a brattywagon and come to that… what the heck is a bratty??? And so the list goes on and on!

I was lucky in that I had always travelled with my parents as a kid but I soon realised that there were lots of wives who really did find it hard being away from home. There were many girls who became lonely and struggled when their men were away and found it difficult to deal with the kids, bills and in some cases lack of friends. Even way back then I had the idea of a website that each regiment could have its own info pages and there could be a chat room that could allow wives the ability to chat and share some of their problems and stresses with other girls that could relate to what they were going through. There were always some good moments to be shared like the baby taking his first steps, or saying his first word. Fun on a night out! Gossip and tips needing to be shared for getting through the proverbial handover. Crikey, if I had known about the toothpaste in the picture hook holes, how easy it would have been.

Unfortunately, my marriage broke down just after a posting back to Bovington in Dorset and I found myself in the unfortunate situation of facing life alone with two boys. The Army unfortunately had changed rules and regulations and I found that they were no longer helping with final moves and it was totally up to me! So, what was I supposed to do? I suppose it kind of felt like they were saying, “Thank you for supporting your husband for the last ten years but that’s it over now, you’re on your own.” My family was no where near me and I had no money. Luckily I bumped into someone who told me about how SSAFA could help me! And they did – they were fabulous and helped me get moved and settled and even called me after to ensure I was ok and settled and coping ok! Their service was fantastic and without them I shudder to think how it would have been. But, again, this was something I knew nothing about.

My youngest brother served with the Engineers and was in the Gulf and then Afghanistan and my poor mother and his girlfriend were beside themselves because they did not have the use of the Families Office or the regular updates that we, as wives, had. When my husband was in Kosovo and Bosnia it was up to me to keep his mother updated and again I thought wouldn’t it be nice to have somewhere that girlfriends and mothers can also meet and chat? And that no-one ever thought about them in the whole big picture.

So, basically, I want to try and create a space where we can chat and meet other people who can relate to life as a WAG and where mums can hop on and chat and find out what’s happening where their sons or daughters are. To give tips and advice about moving from schools to shops to handovers and life abroad and in the UK! To share the highs and lows, find out what’s on where you are and also find other WAGS that have come and gone throughout your life in the Army. I often wonder where some of my old friends have ended up so it would be great to have a reunion area where we can post names and see if anyone knows where they are. There are many wives who are not British, that have married a soldier and for them the trip to the UK can be just as daunting and scary. This will be a place for them to meet and chat to others from their home country.

So, this is your space use it, let’s keep it friendly and fun and make it grow and be everything that you want it to be.

Anna