At the age of 14, I already knew what I was going to be when I grew up – either a policewoman or join the Army! At the time, my half-sister Jean (from my father’s first marriage) was serving in Saudi Arabia working in a hospital as a nurse and I wanted to spread my wings – travel the world, meet people, learn a profession and that’s exactly what I did!
In 1978, I joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps, WO462674 Private Jennifer Campbell – an inexperienced and rather naïve shorthand writer/servicewoman completed basic training in Guildford and trade training in Deepcut – did I mention ending up in the Musgrave Park Hospital, South Belfast due to CS gas exposure! That definitely warranted a red mark on my personal documents.
Imagine my excitement and anticipation when I heard that my first posting was to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Belfast – 1979. Later on, I realized that this was what one might call – being thrown in at the deep end! I received “danger money” of one pound a day – I was 19 years old and oh, was I happy! I literally didn’t know then that I was a sniper’s dream for a walking target! But I survived the ordeal and was awarded the Northern Ireland Campaign Medal.
I am certain that one has to experience military life to truly understand the plight of soldiers and officers – we cannot commend more their service life, experience and professionalism in the name of Queen and country.
Elected in May 2010, Councillor Jennifer Campbell-Klomps of Worcester Park received a request from the constistuency office to lay a wreath on behalf of Paul Burstow MP at the Christ Church with St Philips War Memorial, Worcester Park on Remembrance Day 2011.
This was for me the ultimate honour – to lay a wreath on behalf of soldiers who had fallen and those now serving – not only in remembrance of World War I and World War II war veterans but for all past and present wars.
I searched for my Northern Ireland medal which was neatly wrapped in the same presentational issue tissue paper. I noticed that the attachment clip had fallen off and as the medal looking rather neglected and a little rusty, I vigorously bulled it up army-style (polished).
I wore it with pride on the left hand side of my purchased navy coat (from the Koenigsallee, Duesselfdorf, Germany) which was the first time since leaving the army – precisely 20 years ago!
I had visited the Royal British Legion, Central Road on a few occasions and enjoyed chatting to ex-servicemen about their time in the Army, Air Force and Navy; and true to say, I very rarely came across a single ex-servicewoman with whom I could share the same experience.
It has always been my wish that people could better inform themselves about military life and try to understand the sacrifice that service personnel endure to carry out their duty.
When I reflect on being a servicewoman – hard as it was – it was one of the most life changing experiences that I can recall and I survived the trials and tribulations to tell the story.
I, therefore, salute the officers, soldiers and families who have served and are serving their country.