A lifeline for former soldiers

Former soldier Tony Ryan who is starting a veterans breakfast club in Leighton Buzzard
Former soldier Tony Ryan who is starting a veterans breakfast club in Leighton Buzzard

When you leave the forces, you leave your life behind, according to former Royal Artillery TA soldier Tony Ryan.

The 52-year-old father-of-four from Wing says: “In the regular services everything is planned and laid out for you, so you can concentrate of performing to the best of your ability.

“But when you come out, everything is taken away from you. It’s a whole new adjustment. You have to sort out doctors, dentists, houses.

“You miss the order and the camaraderie, the banter and the support.”

That’s why the man who joined the Junior Signals when he was 16 has started a Veterans Breakfast Club, so that any former members of the three services can pull up a (metaphorical) sandbag and join him for some friendly banter over a full English or a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea.

Tony, who hails from Liverpool, first came across the concept when he went to two separate clubs in his home town.

He said: “I realised what a good idea it was, just to have breakfast or a bar meal and take the mick, like we used to do in the NAAFI.”

But back in November – when he was starting to set up something similar in Leighton – he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Since then he’s had surgery to remove the tumour and has had his first batch of radiation.

The treatment has left him with little energy and he’s had to give up his instructor post with the Leighton Buzzard Army Cadet Force, as well as cutting down his engineering working week to four days.

But this enforced rest has enabled him to concentrate on the Veterans Breakfast Club – and it’s been a welcome distraction.

He saaid: “It’s given me an outlet outside work and family and allowed me to take my mind off the treatment.”

The Leighton Buzzard Veterans Breakfast Club meets at the Swan Hotel in the High Street from 10am to 12 noon on the first and third Sunday of the month – the next is on Sunday, September 6.

Veterans can also get together on Saturday afternoons at The Hare Inn, Southcott village, Linslade.

Since the idea was first mooted by former Royal Engineer Derek Hardman, it’s snowballed with more than 60 clubs around the country and four outside the UK.

> For more information contact Tony on email at tonyr1963@gmail.com or visit www.zeemaps.com