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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

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