Update from Caroline Paige MBE (Chief Executive) and Introduction to Ed Hall (Chair)


Welcome to our April Update. We’re a little late this month as we had a couple of important news items on the verge of completion that were worth waiting for; on 24th April came the formal takeover of Fighting With Pride’s Chair of the Board of Trustees by RN Veteran Ed Hall, and the launch of our online Guide to Help and Support 2024, and on 25th April, news on FWP’s bid to help deliver the National LGBT+ Armed Forces Memorial.

At our Board meeting on 24th April, Craig officially handed over the role of Non-Executive Chair to Ed Hall. Craig remains fully committed to FWPs future work, as a Trustee, Head of Campaign and our Memorial Officer. As FWP moves into a new era, Ed will add his own experience, leadership style and vision to deliver the next chapter in our mission. Some of you will have met him at RUSI when he chaired our Panel event on compensation, or in the Phoenix Arts Club on April 24th, or you may know him from elsewhere, perhaps from his time with Rank Outsiders and forming the Legal Challenge Group to get the ban lifted. Ed says:

“30 years ago, I was an angry young man, whose chosen career in the Royal Navy had been cut ludicrously short in 1988 when I was sacked for being gay.  In finding a group of like-minded (and similarly damaged) men and women in the 1990s I found some stability, and made unique and lasting friendships. I also found the energy to create and lead the Armed Forces Legal Challenge Group, the organisation that would ultimately, along with contributions of many others, lead to the ending of the ban.

I have watched the progress of Fighting With Pride with interest and emotion, and I am so impressed by what Craig Jones and Caroline Paige have achieved.  The organisation has grown from scratch in just 4 years to become a vital part of the veterans’ community, and has won our community tangible progress with the Etherton Review and the apology from the Prime Minister.

I hope to bring the skills I have learned in a long business career to help lead Fighting With Pride as it pushes the government over the last few hurdles to achieving reparations for those damaged by the illegal ban, and to ensure that the charity becomes a long-term source of tangible support and fellowship for LGBT+ veterans. 

Many people were damaged for life by the ban, it’s vital that the government meets the Armed Forces Covenant and ensures that no LGBT+ veteran feels that support is not available for them. I look forward to working with the Trustees, and with the team of community support workers, and alongside Craig who will continue to lead our campaigning.”

You may have seen our news that, on Thursday 25th April, the Government announced that Fighting With Pride would lead the creation of the LGBT Armed Forces Memorial. We are pleased and privileged to have the opportunity to create this important memorial which we hope will find its place at the National Memorial Arboretum. The announcement heralds plans to deliver another of the 49 recommendations made by Lord Etherton in his Independent Review and be assured we are working with the MOD and others on every one of them.

​In the coming months we will engage in a substantial community consultation, nationally online (Zoom!), through an online survey and regionally in focus meetings, and over the coming weeks we will put in place a small team to enable delivery of the project. The award of this grant was enabled by the support of our friends at the Royal British Legion, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Stonewall, LGBT Foundation, Combat Stress, Help For Heroes, Cobseo, The Women’s Royal Army Corps Association, Salute Her and by many others. In the last week we saw the Cabinet Office for Veterans Affairs supporting our work to make sure that LGBT veterans, serving personnel and families, to whom this memorial will have importance, can connect with us to share their views and be involved.

​Craig will be leading this project as our Memorial Officer, and his team will reach far and wide to help ensure that we deliver a memorial our community can be proud of. He is particularly keen to hear from any veteran, serving member of the Armed Forces or family member (and that includes chosen family) for whom this memorial will have special importance. He is also keen to hear if you have contacts that you feel might be worth exploring in the arena of memorial design and fabrication. If so, please drop him a line at craig.jones@fightingwithpride.org.uk

​FWP will keep you informed of progress and let you know about opportunities for you to influence the development of the memorial.

In late 2023, FWP joined with The VeteranUK for their expertise, experience and advice in producing information booklets for the defence community, to help create a directory of support for LGBT+ veterans, serving personnel and families and to further raise awareness of the impacts of the ban. This aspiration was supported with grant funding from the OVA that enabled us to provide a project officer, Kevin Bazeley, to coordinate FWP’s content from our Community Team, Executive, Pride in Veterans Standard Manager, and Veterans from the pre-ban LGBT+ community.

Our main booklet will launch in June 2024, on Armed Forces Day, in printed and online formats. However, to ensure no delay in providing information that would be helpful to the LGBT+ military community, we were keen to launch the directory element of this product early. On 25th April, we launched our Guide to Help and Support 2024 on the FWP and The VeteranUK’s websites, in a booklet that introduces our community team, highlights 180+ organisations that have developed an understanding of the impacts and consequences of the ban and have committed to welcome and support those affected by it, and includes a diverse selection of lived experience accounts to further raise awareness of the history and impacts of the ban.

June’s full version will also list support organisations at a regional and national level, add more details on key support providers and services, more lived experience contributions from LGBT+ veterans, and narrative contributions from our allies and influential guests. Please see the article below for more details. Our Guide toHelp and Support 2024 can be downloaded in pdf format at FWP Directory (fightingwithpride.org.uk) or accessed in an online reader format at https://theveteran.uk/fighting-with-pride-guide-to-help-support-2024/

In other news, on 11th April, we held our Panel event at the Royal United Services Institute, central London, discussing Compensation for LGBT+ Veterans, and were delighted to have Craig, Cat Dixon (Chair of Stonewall), and Michelle Douglas (Executive Director Canadian LGBT Purge Fund) on the Panel, chaired by Ed Hall. It was well attended by veterans and allies, and the video of it is available through our website ‘Current News’ page and via the article in this newsletter. Huge thanks are extended once again to our Canadian family for joining us in London for this important event in our campaign for timely and fair compensation, by sharing their Canadian experience. Michelle had launched the landmark legal challenge against the military’s discriminatory policies against her and all LGBT service members that resulted in the ending of Canada’s prejudicial policies in 1992. With Michelle was Todd Ross, one of the representative plaintiffs in the Canadian LGBT Purge class action lawsuit, and Douglas Elliott who was the Lead Counsel. We look forward to continuing our treasured relationship with the Purge Fund team as we continue to learn and share best practices for LGBT+ veteran support across the international community.

And finally, we are really looking forward to employing a Veterans Community Worker to cover South West England. If you are interested in this role, please note that the applications deadline has been extended to 5pm Tuesday 7th May 2024. There are exciting new opportunities for us to develop in this region and the overlap with our neighbouring VCWs makes it ideal for the successful candidate to be based within Cornwall, Devon or Dorset. If you are interested in this role, please do get in touch with Julia for more information, see advert details below.

As we approach May, please also keep an eye out for our bulletins detailing our next Town Hall. when we will introduce our new Chair, provide an overview of next steps for the Memorial, and update you with any Campaign news.

Best wishes,

Caroline and Ed

You can read the full FWP April Newsletter HERE.

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