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Brig MacMillan


The death of the Duke of Edinburgh has reminded me that it is time I posted a message for the Association. He was a quite remarkable man, much pilloried unjustly in some quarters, who contributed massively to the greater good of the nation and well beyond. It is a shame that it takes loss to trigger a fulsome, comprehensive, educational, informative and uplifting exposition of his life and unique contribution. It is quite possible that we shall not see his like again. I hope that there will be a suitable and lasting commemoration to him and his deeds. To me, he is the ultimate epitome of the motto of Sandhurst, ‘Serve to Lead’. He led through example, loyalty, a deep sense of duty and sheer hard work. I have been lucky enough to have met him a few times over the years through the course of my sundry duties. He was always informed and articulate; he could pin you down over ambiguity and logic in a discussion. He simply enjoyed a good debate and an honest exchange of views. He clearly didn’t suffer fools gladly and I am all for that! He had a sharp mind accompanied by an acute insightful wit. We salute the memory of the core of the Royal Family, and the rock on which its firm foundations stand, in his passing. The Association thus has duly expressed its condolences through the vehicle of the Colonels Commandant RAMC and the RAMC Charity.

One of the Duke’s obsessions was clarity of expression and we are currently living through a period, courtesy of Covid, where there remains a distinct lack of it in much that is said or reported. This is probably down to the underlying scientific ignorance that still pertains around the country despite this year of the pandemic having passed. Pandemic is the most obvious case in hand. A pandemic is a global epidemic so where has the expression global pandemic come from? Cabinet ministers, civil servants the media, even some epidemiologists and doctors are using this tautological expression willy-nilly now. When you break it down, saying a global, global epidemic is really a bit silly. It begs the question what other sort of pandemic is there if it is not global by definition? Mind you it has been preceded by previous similar howlers like HIV Virus and oral pill over the years. And that is my truth.

Staying on the theme of clarity, we have just produced an Association Guide to Resettlement which is elsewhere on this website. My thanks to the Vice Chairman, Stuart Campbell, for his work in preparation of this most useful document. What it does is help those approaching resettlement and those who didn’t quite manage to take advantage of its process on leaving, to have a quick point of reference as to how the system works. It hasn’t reinvented the wheel or put an alternative process in place but simply allows, clearly, access into the existing well-tuned and effective resettlement machinery. So it sits with our revised Association Rules and the Guide to Welfare. More work is ongoing to refine the Welfare capabilities that we have in place currently.

I trust that everybody who is eligible and been offered the Covid vaccine has taken the opportunity to get protected. We are lucky in UK that it is readily available and that the authorities have a proper risk management process in place. I despair of the political shenanigans going on elsewhere in the world which are clouding the facts and risks associated with immunization. There is, sadly, nothing new in this but at a time of pandemic proportions it is especially unfortunate. Just be grateful we have the opportunities here in UK. I have received the first jab (jag to us Scots folk) and await my second. Make sure you do likewise.

The climb out of lockdown and the gradual reopening of more normal living allows us to contemplate how the Association and its Branches might resume some forms of meeting up and socialising again. Rightly we are not rushing into this and the likes of Corps Week in June are no longer in the 2020 Diary, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it would be judicious of us to make plans for the autumn. To that end, I shall be assisting Branches financially to give some sparkle to their return socials and help encourage members back into the active fold.

I have previously mentioned the RAMC Garden and our plan to have it at the Chelsea Flower Show last year. Covid scuppered that but the RAMC Charity decided all the work done in designing and preparing the Garden needed a permanent home to display its message and for it to be enjoyed well into the future. The Garden is to reside permanently at the Royal Hospital Chelsea adjacent to its Infirmary and will be of immense succour to the Pensioners. The work has just commenced to bring this to fulfilment. There will be a Grand Opening for the benefit of both serving RAMC soldiers and our Veterans in due course, following completion; when depending on social rules and Chelsea’s diary. The theme of the Garden is the role of horticulture in medicine – treatment as well as prevention, physical as well as mental health. The intention is to have an annual Corps event thereafter in the Garden.

After a year of Covid, a significant part of which has been under lockdown restrictions of varying degrees, I commend the efforts Branches have made in supporting their more vulnerable and less able members and their dependents. Sometimes this has not been direct but enabled through liaison with other local charitable bodies. I also commend all the attempts to bridge the loneliness gap and communicate with those so challenged. We are lucky that the likes of Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, Text, etc have all helped with communications and there has also been the good old telephone or shouting through the letter box for not everyone is techno savvy or has the wherewithal. I’ve even taken to writing more letters, but I suppose I am of an age when writing was still a primary method of communication between friends and family. Long before welfare phones, there was still the option of sending a postcard or a bluey from far flung parts. Whatever the method, it is the human interaction that helps us survive, exist and cope. I should also say that this website, ably managed for us by Richard Manly, and the Official Association Facebook Page, again ably managed by Ian Razzell, both help in our connectivity significantly. Last, but not least, I know our Secretary, Mike Ryan, and our Assistant Secretary, Lucie Hammann, continue to deal with all your online and email queries with alacrity.

So let’s move forward with a sense of optimism and the prospect of resuming some sort of normal Association relations later this year.

In Arduis Fidelis,
Alistair Macmillan
12 April 2021

Brig MacMillan


2020 is a year we could all have done without and has featured a once in a century dramatic experience no one really anticipated. Covid-19 has had a profound and prolonged impact on all our lives, and this is far from over. It has had a marked effect on the Association and its Branches. We have lost members, sadly, to the virus and we haven’t been able to function the way we normally do through direct social interaction and collective activity. And yet, the very nature of our purpose and construction means that the Covid-19 threat has brought out the essence of what we stand for: mutual support and assistance. We might have been restricted in our social interactions but this hasn’t stopped us getting in touch with each other through imaginative modern means. Whilst we worry about the infirmed and the vulnerable, and I commend the efforts of Branches to assist them with tangible physical aid, it is through our continuing inter-communication that the unseen, hidden, side effect of the pandemic, mental stress, is being alleviated.

Christmas is important to our lives and to our families, but it is, this year, much constrained. We may well have to accept that short term pain will help provide for long term gain although this might be little comfort to those families that have members long in isolation or with a short life expectancy. But the New Year does bring hope and the prospect of vaccines should see us through this crisis in due course. We need therefore to stick with the plan and endure for some time yet. And, incidentally, make sure you have the vaccine when it is offered and encourage family members to do the same. Ignore the siren voices of the anti-vaccinators and the mischievous that abound on social media.

What Covid-19 has brought to the fore is the need, the competency and the effectiveness of the serving RAMC, Regular and Reserve, in order to support the national effort. Normally it is on some overseas battlefield but today it is very much on the home front that our successors, and future members, are making their impact. I congratulate them on their contribution to the nation’s health.

So 2021 will remain trying for the near term but there are undoubted grounds for optimism that we shall come through the pandemic and resume our core business of supporting our veterans and promoting our rich heritage. Thank you all for your continuing support to the Association as it makes my job as Chairman all the easier and more pleasurable.

Alistair Macmillan
23 December 2020

Brig MacMillan


It is right and proper to mark VE Day today and remember all the sacrifices that the nation at large and the RAMC in particular made in order to secure victory in Europe 75 years ago in 1945. Some of the story has been told but we have, over this last decade, rightly been focusing on the Centenary of the Great War. It is now timely to start pondering more on that other great struggle of the 20th Century and our forbears’ part in it. But that may well still have to play second fiddle, in the short term, to the existential threat of Covid-19 and its impact on society at large and the functioning of the RAMC Association.

The one thing about so much of the present situation that unfolds, is that we are living a virtual life and using, more and more, telephonic gadgets, digital means, social media and even letter writing to bridge the communications and social interaction gap. But there is a limit to the number of repeat Father Browns and Coronation Streets you can endure. It remains frustrating but vital we keep to the social distancing mandated by the Government and put the Association on hold whilst not forgetting the vulnerable within our veteran community. I have been connecting with the Executive Committee members periodically attempting to support and provide encouragement and explanation over the situation. I trust that this is trickling down to Branches and out to the Membership.

In the background we are having a bit of a revolution on the Association key personality front. Our Secretary Chris Richards has stood down after holding the post for almost the last 10 years. A stalwart of his Welsh Branch, he stood in at a time of flux and worry for the Association when the key retired officer position of Assistant Regimental Secretary, who had been Secretary to the Association from time immoral, was disestablished in AMD. Now that individual was, of course, a full-time employee, so it is remarkable that a volunteer, part-time by definition, enthusiast has stepped in and performed the task so assiduously since then. Chris has now felt his course is run in this role having broken-in, weaned and shown the ropes to yet another new Chairman. But we are not going to lose him from the Association as he will continue in his local role. So I congratulate Chris for his achievements as our Secretary and thank him profusely for his hard work in service of our cause. When the opportunity presents itself I shall be presenting him with a Certificate of Commendation from the Association and I trust this will be when we can get back together again and you can join in the occasion.

So we have a new Secretary, Mike Ryan. Mike retired from the Regular Army last year in the rank of lieutenant colonel. I remember him well from my time in command of 4 Armd Fd Amb in Minden when he was one of my young corporals. Tempus fugit. He has a host of experience at both regimental as well as staff duty and not least in leading and organising groups of people. His engagement has been in managing those in training and has staff experience has covered that area as well. He is also no stranger to ceremonial and tradition having worked at HQ London District as well as commanding the Support Unit, at Camberley, that held together AMD, the AMS RHQs, AMS Recruiting, the Headquarters Officers’ Mess and the medical cadets around the universities all over the country.

But we are further fortunate because we have managed to secure a paid part-time Assistant Secretary who works in RHQ. This is Lucie Hammann who is married to a member of the Forces and is a very experienced civil servant. She, as does Mike, lives in the Camberley area and this will aid liaison and communications.

Finally on the face change front, I have asked somebody to take on a new role within the Executive of the Association and have appointed a Vice-Chairman. His name is Stuart Campbell and he is a retired Colonel L/RAMC. Stuart currently works at the Army Personnel Centre (APC) in Glasgow and he previously, whilst serving, ran the AMS’s Manning and Career Management Division there. He has been a helicopter pilot in his time in the Army and has been heavily involved in the AMS Sports Union as its Chairman (he is no stranger to a ski slope either). He will be hugely important and useful to the Association as we focus on how Branches can better address Welfare matters and find our way back to what was, but has lapsed, a contribution to Resettlement of Army leavers.

This leads me on to my final announcement concerning the Association for now. I am keen to see us bridge the age and generation gap between our otherwise ageing cohort of current Members and those now serving, Regular or Reserve, Officer or Soldier, in order to make us attractive for the future. One of the key mechanisms in this is the use of social media that is the lingua franca of the next cohort of RAMC coming through. We thus need to harness the use of social media better and make ours the true servant of the Association, its aims and its Members. We have had a tremendous experiment with this on Facebook that has proved successful in attracting participants but we don’t control it and it can wander off in directions that aren’t core to us. So we have started again with us in control and I urge you to switch to our official Facebook site, codenamed Leishman after our founder of 1925. I think you will see that it is starting to bridge the gap I mentioned already and other social media devices are in hand. Old fuddy-duddies like me won’t necessarily engage too often through these means (I realise that some of my fuddy-duddy chums actually do and relish the experience) but I am crystal clear that this is part of our survival and our thriving in the future.

Wash your hands, keep your distance, only go out when it is vital and keep in the game of survival. It will resolve itself in due course.

Alistair Macmillan
8 May 2020

Brig MacMillan


Since I last reported, nothing has changed and yet a lot has changed. We remain in the grip of the Covid-19 Pandemic, restrictions on our freedom of movement and socialising persist in order to contain the impact of the virus. However, we have learned a number of clinical lessons and there is scope of improved containment through testing and tracing. The prospect of an effective vaccine is close to hand. Life remains difficult as isolation demands limitations on economic activity. So there is some way to go yet before a semblance of being back to a modified normal may present itself next spring. We need to gird ourselves to coping with the winter, see through Christmas and the New Year, and look forward to the spring.

Thus the impact on the Association and its Branches goes on. I congratulate all the effort Branches have put into helping out the vulnerable and keeping their morale going. The older and more infirmed we are, the more anxious we become and keeping up social contact, of a more distant and non-touching form, will help us through.

For my part, I remain focused on improving our welfare capabilities and also wish to develop our ability to assist in the resettlement process for those leaving the service. It will, though, take some time before we have all the tools and training in place to make this happen effectively and evenly across all Branches. But this is our direction of travel. It will make us more attractive to those leaving the service and thus sustain our membership.

This shouldn’t stop us planning for expansion and reawakening once the way is safe for us to socialise again. We have the funds to make this possible once the opportunities return. I am also keen to capture your stories of coping and assisting through this crisis.

Our new Facebook page is blossoming and I congratulate the energies of WO1 Julie Lane and Ian Razzell in building it up and keeping it relevant.

It is the time of remembrance and whilst we may not be able to remember together in large groups, we can still do so within families, on door stops, on-line and on our own if necessary. We will remember them.

Alistair Macmillan
6 November 2020

Dear Colleague,

As we approach the holiday weekend and the imminent review of the Government’s social restrictions in order to combat the Covid-19 epidemic, I thought it timely and appropriate to give some words of encouragement to the Branches of the RAMC Association. I had pointed out previously that we manage our membership through our Branches and that local decisions would have to be made in relation to Branches conducting their business. Rightly you have not been meeting and collecting together socially as per Government direction but equally our local networks will, I am sure, have been connecting with our infirmed and aged Members. Indeed, the age profile of our membership veers towards the more vulnerable group in the population by definition.

It is quite apparent that we will be in a situation of lock-down for some weeks to come, especially those in the over 70s bracket. So we must continue to show the necessary fortitude in obeying the distancing rules that currently apply. It is difficult for many, and especially those with children and/or who work in key jobs, to follow the strictures. Yet we must for the benefit of all concerned and to reduce the load on the NHS. It will be a grand moment when things ease up, but we must wait awhile yet.

We are medical people and we understand the need for all the procedures and limitations so we can clearly see and admire the fantastic work that our colleagues in the NHS are undertaking in confronting, on the front line, the consequences of the epidemic. Within that we can also see the contribution our currently serving RAMC colleagues are making either within their normal place of work in the NHS, caring for those troops assisting with supply and distribution or in the new Nightingale facilities coming on stream. But we need also to commend the efforts of food shop staff, binmen, transport workers, carers, environmental health, etc, etc for all their vital efforts in keeping us all alive, supplied and safe.

So I urge you to keep your focus on obeying the rules but keeping a weather eye on our vulnerable locally. I am amazed by the voluntary organisations and volunteers rallying to the cause whether it be for the NHS or simply helping the locality with shopping runs and so on. Our Branches are not alone in helping others and can link in with other volunteers to ensure coverage. Even a phone call, text message, letter or email will help bridge the isolation gap and assist in sustaining the managing of the separation still required.

I see the loons are gathering some pace on the fake news front through social media. Ignore this noise and stick to the Government’s advice and direction. This is based on the best evidence available and may well change as that evidence accrues and unfolds. It pains me to say this but be circumspect over the siren voices of the media currently soundly out about the way ahead. They seem to be spending more time trying to reduce the credibility of Government in handling its most serious challenge in decades. Instead of being part of the proper exercise of holding the Government to account, they seem hell-bent on unconstructive criticism, finding fault, nit-picking, shroud waving, creating division and demeaning the efforts of those in charge. They certainly are abusing data and statistics daily. Whether this is because they are simply innumerate or whether it is merely wilful, I am not sure, or perhaps, it is a combination of the two.

This is a massive emergency enterprise, unprecedented in most of our lifetimes, involving novel demands and requiring rapid adaptation of a peacetime structure facing one way into something confronting a serious and novel enemy from another direction. It involves a large number of inter-faceted working parts and many different levels through thousands of places, hundreds of thousands of people and countless items of equipment and supplies. There will be errors and cockups, the big issue is whether they are systemic/systems-based or merely local friction which is the very reality of human interactions over the millennia. My money is on the latter. The trick is to fix the rogue instrument in the orchestra not shoot the conductor. I have no intention of having my morale rotted by sundry journalists. If you are interested why my judgement is swayed in this direction, and so strongly, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me directly.

I will finish now and ask you to share this message with the Branches under your regional wings. I would also ask for feedback as to whether messages such as this are found to be of any value? When I wrote to all Branch Chairmen last year after I had taken up this appointment, I invited feedback. This has only happened from about a third of the Branches. So please let me know if I am helping or not? There is enough noise around the place as it is that might distract from the focus on the main effort and message.

Wash those hands, keep your distance and work from home if you can.

Alistair Macmillan
Chairman RAMC Association

The RAMC Association

William Boog LeishmanIn 1925, the RAMC Association was formed to further the camaraderie of WW1 Corps veterans with Sir William Leishman being the first President. There are now some 28 branches around UK with a predominantly veteran membership although most serving Corps members also are members centrally. The Association has traditionally been supported by Corps Funds and especially for the expenses of the branch standards and standard bearers.