As part of Armed Forces Week, we invited our staff members with varied armed forces experiences to blog about how it impacted who they are today. Earlier in the week, we heard from Training and Development Specialist, Jenny Wallwork, and her time in the navy – if you haven’t yet read it, click here. 

One of our newest members of the team, Victoria Hart, grew up with parents in the military taking her to new places, cultures and people and developing her outlook on the world, her adaptability and her resilience. Take a read .. 

As part of Armed Forces Day I am writing about my unique experience growing up as the child of a parent in the military or better known as a ‘Forces Brat’.  

We have a military family with uncles in the Irish Guards and my dad in the Royal Air Force so we have been scattered all over Europe over the years. My dad was in the RAF as a Senior Communications Electronics Specialist Technician for over twenty years and before I was 13 we had moved 5 times and I had been to 7 different schools!

Being a child with a parent in armed forces was like being part of an exclusive club, for weirdo kids who moved to a new country every so often. I was born in Dunfermline whilst my dad was based at RAF Pitreavie Castle in the Kingdom of Fife, Scotland. When my sister arrived three years later we up and moved to Oslo, Norway.  we also lived in RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire and after my youngest sister was born we moved to Holland.

We were really lucky to be able to experience different cultures, food, attitudes and lifestyles as we grew up. I attended an international school for several years with American, English, German, French and Dutch friends. This is my sisters and I on our way to Afcent International School, Brunssum, Holland in 1991. We took full advantage of our European home, in the international school our trips were to neighbouring European countries, as a family we would go shopping to Germany on the weekend, socialising with different nationalities through the officers’ club kid’s parties and we could drive to Italy, Spain, Belgium for holidays!

The best thing about living abroad was experiencing different celebrations for example Carnival. At Carnival we would all get dressed up  in funny costumes and go to the parades, catching the sweets thrown from the floats. On Sinterklass on the 5th December we would put one of our shoes outside the front door overnight hoping that we would get a big bag of sweets and not a big piece of coal! As a kid there is nothing like eating sweets in your pjs at 7am, out of a pink and green shoe!

Growing up a Forces Brat has had a massive influence on me as a person, I feel it is like a badge of honour that I wear and when people ask me where I grew up I can say “EVERYWHERE”! It always gives me an interesting story to tell.

I am open to new cultures, new foods, new music, new everything! I love travelling! I am forever telling my children about the Loempia and HEMA Rookworst we would eat when shopping on a Saturday in Holland and encourage them to try new foods themselves! I love learning about different cultures and carry on some of the traditions that we experienced abroad, here in the U.K.

When we returned to England and settled in Birkenhead, I had lots of adjustment and that was difficult as a 13-year-old. Living abroad for so many years meant I had to build relationships with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents that I didn’t know as we had always been away. It wasn’t until we fully settled in England that we were aware our upbringing was different to other kids, now we are thankful to my dad for providing us with amazing opportunities as kids.

Through moving around and starting new schools’ half way through the term I have developed adaptability, resilience and most certainly stoicism. Forces Brats are strong with a good sense of humour, because growing up you need to be to survive as a child with a parent who often is away on exercise. Meeting so many people from different countries has helped me to develop a proactive and alternative approach to doing things.

My childhood influences me as an adult as I am always challenging myself to take on new challenges, like my upcoming Tough Mudder in September!
Me and dad at Pitreavie, Scotland 1984.