WATCH: RAF Cosford military wives sharing their lives through song
Most of us will have no idea about moving to a new town or country at short notice, not hearing from your partner for days at a time or worrying if they will even come home at all.
But a group of women have found comfort and camaraderie amid the unique concerns of the military life through the power of song.
The Cosford Military Wives Choir has been going since 2012, set up by 50-year-old Kellie Brown, who was at the time married to an RAF serviceman.
The group, which has about 35 members, meets once a week to rehearse at RAF Cosford’s Chaplain Centre, and they play a host of concerts throughout the year – with some major credits to their roster including singing at the Grand National and with Lulu.
Kellie, who also served in the Merchant Navy for 10 years, started the choir after being inspired by the Gareth Malone TV series The Choir, and said she saw it as: “Something to bring the ladies out of their houses.”
She explained that she started by knocking “every single married quarters door”.
The group started with about 15 to 20 members and a few CDs and got to work.
Kellie, who lives in Shifnal, said that there had been an initial reluctance from some ladies, but that once they had taken part, they were hooked.
She said: “I had people sort of saying ‘I am not doing that, I can’t sing, that’s ridiculous’, but once people came once, they came back again and again.”
A recurring comfort for all the choir’s members is the understanding they find in their fellow singers – the appreciation of issues that those who do not share a military life will struggle to empathise with no matter how hard they try.
Faye Wydra, the choir’s social secretary, whose husband has been serving at RAF Cosford for the past four years, said it provided a shared place where the women understood what others are going through.
She said: “We all share the same pain, worries, anxieties, that dreaded knock on the door. We all understand how that feels.
“The mithering, ‘have they got to camp yet’, ‘why have I not heard from them, has something happened?’. We all share the same pain and when you come here, you leave all your worries at the door. It is life to us, it is fantastic.”
The Military Wives Choir foundation works across the military, and provides the same groups across a host of bases.
Kellie explained how that similarity could help women moving to a new base.
She said: “The good thing having it as the foundation is that when these ladies move to different camps, when they get to a camp that is a welcoming thing straight away – something they can be familiar with that helps their move.
“It has definitely provided a lot of people with friendship. Music is very good for the mind and so people with anxiety and nerves get to come here and get strength and support.
“If you get a good bunch of strong women together they can help each other.”
Choir member, Nicki Earl-Pickup, an Army Corporal based at Tern Hill with the Royal Irish spoke about how her fellow choir members had helped her on deployment.
She said: “Two years ago I deployed on a short tour to the Falklands and the ladies back here put a comfort box together to sent to me.”
The box contained a bunch of comforts like shower gel, shampoo, and lots and lots of sweets.
Carly Hardwick, from Donnington whose husband works in the RAF said the choir provided huge support for its members.
She said: “It is very difficult for spouses to move. You get friends, your support network, and then move and there is no one, so this is an immediate way of knowing you have friends.”
Corporal Earl-Pickup added: “If it was not for the choir I would be in my room twiddling my thumbs.”