18 April 2017 - 1:32pm
The Salvation Army’s red shield canteen has been a fixture with Armed Forces personnel since the First World War. At Vimy Barracks, Majors Barrie and Maria Sampson are keeping the tradition of being available to provide support to new recruits
Whether on the training ranges or at the Vickery Club, chances are members of the Armed Forces have met The Salvation Army’s Majors Barrie and Maria Sampson. They’ve been a familiar sight since July 2016 providing a listening ear while overseeing the welfare facility, known as the Vickery Club, at Vimy Barracks. Although it might seem an unusual place to find The Salvation Army at work, the Sampsons are two in a long line of ministers from the Church who have been offering additional support over the years to the Armed Forces.
Major Maria Sampson said: “It’s not as unusual as you would think to find The Salvation Army supporting the Armed Forces. In fact, our history of response work – being available when emergencies arise, such as the 7/7 bombings or, as during the two world wars, providing sustenance and support to the Armed Forces – is what drew me to my decision to become a minister. Our emergency work is one element of what The Salvation Army is known for – being available when need is presented, transforming someone’s day with a welcome, a cup of tea and compassion. When faced with a situation of despair through war, disaster or tragedy, we can bring hope and a space for people to reflect and unload.
“During the First World War we had motor ambulances, refreshment huts in military camps and parcels of food and clothing for combatants - some of our ministers also served as chaplains. In the Second World War, we offered something slightly different, with our red shield prominently displayed on mobile canteens we dished up tea, chewing gum, soap, toothpaste and sewing kits to personnel. Our canteens were in occupied Europe only days after the D-Day landings and closely followed the advance of Allied troops into Germany. You could say we’re continuing the tradition of serving those who are serving.”
Barrie and Maria have been ministers for The Salvation Army for some 20 years, having left careers in the shipping industry. Barrie is particularly enjoying being at Vimy Barracks as he has spent eight years serving with the Territorial Army.
He said: “I spent eight years as a territorial soldier and have spent time working in The Salvation Army’s divisional emergency response team which supports our blue light services. I have also worked with our international emergency response teams in Kuwait and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The enormity of the disaster is Haiti was overwhelming and really hit me on my return to the UK. I’d been handling tough negotiations and was seeing first-hand the human cost of the disaster, knowing that every pile of rubble would conceal bodies. It became a personal battle for me as I was struggling with my own grief, friends who had recently passed away, as well as the enormity of Haiti’s situation and providing support there. Although, you can’t always see God at work in the middle of darkness, faith reminds you that he is there and gets you through – this was very much my experience of the time.”
When new young cadets visit the Vickery Club to find out more about facilities and services available to them, Barrie and Maria are able to share their extensive life experiences – not only their eye-opening international work but Barrie’s own battles with alcohol before becoming teetotal and a member of The Salvation Army. They also bring the added-value services The Salvation Army can provide - from help contacting long lost family members through the Family Tracing Service to simply providing a hot drink and a chance to talk.
The Salvation Army’s reputation for providing additional support to families at Christmas led to offers of toy and food donations in Catterick Garrison, which Barrie and Maria were able to accept and share with other local churches and organisations currently working with families in need. They hope to develop this partnership further to meet need, exploring ways The Salvation Army can support the services already being carried out by padres on site and others offsite.
Barrie concludes: “Ultimately, we are here to serve the Service.”