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Army wives who are united in song
THE moving story of Gareth Malone’s Military Wives Choir storming to the top of the charts captured the nation’s hearts and imagination.
Now the phenomenon has touched down in Essex.
The wives of soldiers based at Colchester Garrison formed their own choir in June and the 30-strong group practise each week at Montgomery Infants’ School, in Colchester.
Wendy Williams is a former soldier herself and is married to Captain Glyn Williams. They live in the Colchester barracks with Colchester with their two sons Jamal, 13 and Dayaan, 10.
She wants to dispel the myth that Army wives sit helplessly by the phone while their husbands are serving abroad. She says: “We’re all busy women and if it was not for the choir there’s no way we would all get the chance to meet other than coffee mornings.
“It has been fantastic to have those two hours a week where we come together to do something positive. It has also meant I have met a lot of women locally and we’re establishing friendships.
“Most of us are juggling looking after our families with working, we don’t have time to sit crying by the phone.
“When you marry someone in the Army you are also marrying the Army, which means you have to understand what that involves.”
There is no hierarchy in the choir according to Wendy.
“If the choir was regimental it would take the fun out of it,” she says. “No one talks about their husband’s job or whether they’re a Colonel or a Brigadier. We’re all there to get to know each other as equals.”
Wendy, who is PA to the Deputy Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, admits that being an Army wife is not always easy.
The last time Glyn was on tour was during 2010 and 2011 in Afghanistan and this put a strain on the family.
“When Glyn is away I am a single parent for that time. There is pressure on the wife to maintain stability for the children and keep the family unit together.
“I don’t want to be an emotional state when I speak to Glyn while he’s on tour because that will make him worry. I relax by immersing myself in sports and I like running and walking our three dogs.”
Wendy is also understanding that it can take a while for Glyn to get back to normality when he gets back from a tour.
“We’re very honest and communicate our feelings and when he got back from tour last time Glyn said he might take a little while to adjust to family life.
“It meant I was more understanding of how he was and it didn’t take long for him to get back to normal, but it was good to know how he was feeling.
“We are also honest with the children about their dad’s job and the dangers and encourage them to talk about how they feel so they don’t bottle it up.”
Wendy, who worked as a staff clerk from 1987 to 1997, met Glyn when they were both stationed in Plymouth in the early Nineties.
“We maintained a strong relationship, while juggling the pressures of Army life, from the start,” says Wendy, 42.
“About a year after we met, I left the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, Plymouth and was stationed in HQ British Army of the Rhine, Rheindalen, Germany’. Later Glyn was on tour for ten months and then stationed in Thailand. “We accepted that was part of the job and our relationship has always been really strong.”
Being in the Army has meant Glyn has been absent at important times.
“In 1999, when I was heavily pregnant with Jamal, Glyn was away on tour and then had to go away again after he was born. I then had to move house with a week-old baby and our dogs.
“It was probably two of the most stressful times in a person’s life. I got through it though and I think it made me stronger!”