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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

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Dear Colleague,

We currently live in the proverbial ‘interesting times’, an old Confucian curse but apposite today none the less. The full impact of Covid-19 remains unclear yet threatening. So it has struck me that it might be timely to consider the potential impact the current global epidemic may have on the Association in the next wee while. I say this in the light of the situation being fluid and circumstances are unfolding day by day. We are rightly being led by expert epidemiological advice and I therefore emphasise that the facts, as they materialise, and the advice given, should be gleaned from official Government and devolved administration sites and help lines. I would not pay attention to whatever else is running riot across social media currently.

It would seem that this strain of corona virus is causing respiratory disease that is spread via human contact directly or indirectly via hard surfaces shared by humans. In 80% of cases the effects are mild, in 15% of cases the effect is more serious and in 5% of cases the impact is quite critical. The older members of the population are more at risk of fitting into the latter two groups through either existing ill-health and/or age-related reduction in the effectiveness of body immune systems. It would be fair to assume that, considering the age distribution of the Membership, there might be more of a tendency towards the more serious end of the ill-health spectrum, if gripped by the virus, than for the general population. This is relative, of course, and not an absolute judgement merely indicating a propensity to be more at risk.

We can see that the Government is currently employing a policy of containment but that, as cases develop within the country, we may be moving towards a policy of delay and thus the impact of restrictions in public gatherings. It is in this light that I turn to my observations on the disease’s potential impact.

We are closely monitoring, alongside RHQ RAMC, whether we should suspend or postpone national Association events and participation. We are coming up to significant Association events such as Alrewas and the AGM followed by Corps Sunday in the calendar. Before that we have our scheduled Executive Committee Meeting at Camberley that I hope will still be possible. I will keep you informed about how we perceive risk and will make decisions, I hope, in a timely manner in order to reduce personal aggravation regarding such matters as travel and accommodation.

However, more closer to home will be the judgements of local Branches regarding their activities over the near future. I must say that this will have to be a matter of local judgement based on the prevailing advice from Government and local circumstances. I know of similar organisations to us where safety first has already been employed. I suspect that individual Members will be making their own personal risk assessments and there will be a tendency towards reduced attendance at events during the current situation.

So I would finish by reminding Branches that despite all this, our commitment to welfare and support of the frail and infirmed locally needs to be maintained and that self-isolators shouldn’t disappear into anonymity and neglect. Keep washing your hands and find non-contact ways of greeting those you meet and with whom you converse. The instructions for when to self-isolate look as if they may be changing within the next fortnight so be vigilant.

I would be grateful if you would share the contents of this letter with the Branches you represent on the Executive Committee.


Alistair Macmillan
Chairman RAMC Association

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Brig MacMillan

It is a great privilege to have been appointed as Chairman of the RAMC Association for the next 5 years and I look forward very much to rising to the challenge of leading the Association effectively during my tenure. It is a mighty organization first setup by the then DGAMS, Sir William Leishman, in 1925 and still encompasses some 28 Branches including one in Cyprus.

I fully realize that the Association is essentially an ageing one and that younger soldiers today find other ways and means to communicate and socialize with each other. Even though all serving members of the Corps are Association members, we have seen fewer of them joining us on their retirement. Many don’t know what the Association does and how it can help them after their service. So my initial main effort will be to explore better mechanisms of communication with the serving Regular and Territorial personnel. We need to make those isolated instances of interaction between units and Association Branches the norm across our network. I also believe we need to get together better with other organisations that serve the ex-RAMC community like RAMC Re-United and explore how we can cooperate better to mutual advantage.

Now the life-blood of the Association is its Branches. The Branches are where our membership resides and functions. So I am also looking at how the Association’s Executive Committee can assist Branches more, physically and financially, to aid the lot of the membership.

I look forward to getting around the Branches during my stint and to meeting as many members as possible. I hope many of you can continue to support such gatherings as Corps Sunday, the Annual Service and AGM at the National Arboretum and Remembrance Sunday. We had 16 Standard Bearers on parade at the Arboretum recently so let’s aim at increasing this for the remaining central functions this year.

In Arduis Fidelis,
Alistair Macmillan
May 2019

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Brig MacMillan

It is now 6 months since I became Chairman and quite a lot has been happening since then. We have had a successful Corps Sunday with three Standards dedicated at the Service including one for our new Branch at Chorley. We had a magnificent Battlefield Tour to WW1 sites, conducted by Pete Starling, in September and my wish is that we will repeat such an exercise annually hereafter; there is another planned for May 2020 at Arnhem, the details of which are elsewhere on the website. At the Field of Remembrance one of our members, Michael Cane from Maidstone, scored quite a hit with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, so much so that this featured on ITV news that evening. Forty Association Members marched past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.

Organisational changes are afoot. Our longstanding Secretary, Chris Richards, is standing down at the end of the year and Mike Ryan, recently retired from Regular service, is taking over. I shall pay a tribute to Chris later on at the end of his actual tour of duty. Our Social Media voice, Diane Donnelly, has stepped down from her duties and I have already paid tribute, appropriately on her beloved Facebook, to her work for the Association. Diane will continue to do other work for the Association. Kim Bourne has taken over this role and we look forward to seeing what Social Media innovations she will give us. In the round, we have made new arrangements for this website by employing a professional website operator.

I am exploring how we can improve the linkage between our Branches and the Field Army, Regular and Reserve, in order to promote both understanding and mutual support. From next month there will be a Regular feature about the Association in the Medic Magazine. Further inroads into the blockages in informing and involving currently serving personnel with the Association are ongoing.

The Central Executive of the Association is here not only to direct policy but to help and assist Branches. To that end, Maidstone Branch is to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the death of LCpl Eric Harden VC in January 2020. The Branch’s arrangements are being augmented by the Association at large and I would wish to see such support to other projects, elsewhere in the country, in due course. I am also exploring a model of recruiting mentors and enablers to assist Branches to modernise and recruit. I am starting out in Scotland with a group of recently retired senior officers from both the Regular and Reserve RAMC to see if we might swell membership as well as lower the average age profile. The Association is for both Officers and Soldiers so we need to be attractive to both constituencies through our Events.

That is enough for now. I am ending this short brief with my personal congratulations to three of our Members who have recently received Commendation Certificates from me for their long service and great work on behalf of the Association: Diane Donnelly, Michael Cane and Colin Miles; you may or may not know much of the two latter names but they have been stalwarts of Maidstone Branch for many years. So Branches, if you have a worthy and long standing Member within your firmament who has given service over and above the call of normal duty, please let me know the details so that the Association can bring wider recognition and acknowledgement of this out into the open.

Alistair Macmillan
Nov 2019

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Brigadier Macmillan was born in Glasgow in 1948 and after school in England studied medicine at Glasgow University, graduating in 1974. After house appointments in Glasgow he mustered for duty as a medical officer in the RAMC in 1975 having been a medical cadet. He retired in 2004 having been a Consultant in Public Health and having undertaken a variety of both command and staff functions in the Defence and Army Medical Services. His service included studying at the Army Staff College and latterly being a Queen’s Honorary Physician. He was an airborne soldier in both the Regular and Territorial Army. He is possibly best known as the architect of NATO’s first Multi-national Integrated Medical Unit and as the deviser of the Medical Regiment.

In his retirement he has been heavily involved in veterans’ mental health charities and served as a Colonel Commandant RAMC as well as being Honorary Colonel to 144 Parachute Medical Squadron and 225 (Scottish) Medical Regiment. During his time as a Colonel Commandant he was President of the RAMC Association and Chairman of the RAMC Charity finishing as Chairman of the RAMC Benevolence Committee.

He lives in the West of Scotland with his wife, Lesley, of 43 years. Lesley until recently ran her own business and also showed and bred Labrador Retrievers. They have a daughter who works in Conservation. In his spare time he is involved in researching and writing on Military Medical History and is an avid supporter of Scottish and Glasgow Rugby

In his retirement he has been heavily involved in veterans’ mental health charities  well as being Honorary Colonel to 144 Parachute Medical Squadron and 225 (Scottish) Medical Regiment. During his time as a Colonel Commandant he was President of the RAMC Association and Chairman of the RAMC Charity finishing as Chairman of the RAMC Benevolence Committee.

He lives in the West of Scotland with his wife, Lesley, of 43 years. Lesley until recently ran her own business and also showed and bred Labrador Retrievers. They have a daughter who works in Conservation. In his spare time he is involved in researching and writing on Military Medical History and is an avid supporter of Scottish and Glasgow Rugby

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