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The anxious wait of Norfolk's army wives

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:45 06 July 2010

Wives of soldiers serving in Afghanistan - Lisa Bell, Vix Wills and Lucy Lawson

Wives of soldiers serving in Afghanistan - Lisa Bell, Vix Wills and Lucy Lawson

For the wives and mothers of soldiers serving in Afghanistan waiting weeks before they can speak to their loved ones can be heart wrenching.

Especially when rumour starts spreading around the camp about an explosion in the war zone that has seen their husband injured.

For the wives and mothers of soldiers serving in Afghanistan waiting weeks before they can speak to their loved ones can be heart wrenching.

Especially when rumour starts spreading around the camp about an explosion in the war zone that has seen their husband injured.

They can't rush to be by their side, to see how bad it is or give them support.

This was the reality for Lisa Bell, whose husband, Light Dragoon Sgt Keith Bell, was injured in Afghanistan on their current tour.

Thankfully for her she was able to speak to him and find out that the injury was not that serious - and treated out there - before the rumours started to flow.

The reality is that many in the regiment, based at Swanton Morley, have suffered serious injuries including losing limbs in recent intense fighting in Afghanistan.

The Light Dragoons have been performing a task out of their usual remit and they have lost five men.

This week Mrs Bell, 31, and her two children, Bethany, 12, and Aiden, nine, who made a banner for his home coming, finally got to see their husband and father in the flesh.

“He had a shrapnel wound to the back of his calf caused by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade),” said Mrs Bell.

“Two others were in the same incident.

“It is upsetting because you are not there, you can't see for yourself how badly injured they are. And because my husband is the way he is he likes to stay out there with his troops.”

Lucy Lawson, 23, recently spent time with her husband, Sgt Jamie Lawson. When he left his youngest daughter Isla was just over a year old. When he came home for R&R, two stone lighter, she had just turned two. Their other daughter Sophie is four.

When Vix Willis' husband, Major Hugo Willis, returned for rest and recuperation (R&R) he had lost three stone.

“He didn't have three stone to lose,” said Mrs Willis. “I was really shocked when I saw him.

“They have been living for a long time on very little sleep, very little everything. This time it is different to other tours, they have been doing jobs they are not normally doing and they have lost lives.

“It is different and people have really pulled together and we have got the community spirit back.”

It is not always easy, she said. The anxiety will bubble away controlled but then just saying hello someone will spark tears.

Mrs Willis had not been able to speak her husband for four weeks during the much publicised Operation Panther's Claw.

But when she did she tried to buoy him up. “I found part of my remit is to send big-up stories to him about things here,” she said. “It's insignificant to what they are doing but sometimes they need a little escape.”

When they get back they have to readjust to life back in the family fold instead of holed up amongst goats and sheep in 40 degree heat.

“I found the intensity they have been working at meant we had had little contact and felt disconnected,” said Mrs Willis, 40.

“It was lovely to reconnect with him and remember why we are all doing this.

“We would probably not want them to be facing the danger they are but we recognise there is a job they have got to do and we want to support that.”

The couple have two children, Charlie, eight, and Georgia, five.

To keep in touch with their husbands, the wives send e-blueys - an electronic version of the bluey message service - and send parcels as well as phone calls when they can.

Honesty between the soldiers and wives helps them all get through it. Mrs Bell said sometimes she's told things she maybe doesn't want to hear but her husband tells her so she doesn't hear what may be an exaggeration through someone else - like the 2cm shrapnel wound was his whole leg.

But the troops can still only tell their wives so much.

Sometimes the wives have to pretend everything is alright when it might not be. If they don't and let off steam they later feel bad for possibly worrying their husbands.

In the mean time they support each other, getting together for charity events, like Race for Life and dragon boat racing, to just drinks at each other's homes.

As friends they support each other and pick each other up.

And they have a team of welfare officers who offer their support - both to families touched by injuries or death in the warzone and to those going through the normal traumas, such as giving birth.


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