Merry Christmas

Our Style for Soldiers Ambassador David Gandy has written about our Style for Soldiers Christmas party on Vogue. com. He happily posed for photographs throughout the evening with service women and the girlfriends and wives of servicemen, and chatted with the injured men and women about their journeys and recovery. His kindness and humility was appreciated by all, and David brings glamour and attention to our cause.

(see below for his blog on vogue.co.uk)

This spirit and humour hasn’t diminished over the last 60 years and this couldn’t have been demonstrated to me more than my second opportunity to meet many of wounded service men and women during an event for one of my chosen charities, Style for Soldiers at a Christmas dinner in London last week.

If you’ve forgotten or don’t know about Style for Soldiers, it is a charity set up by Emma Willis – a Jermyn Street shirt maker – as a thank you to injured servicemen and women recovering at Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre.

Emma visits the centre, accompanied by her assistants, to make injured troops a complementary monogrammed, bespoke shirt. They also give – to those who use them – a hand-carved ebony walking stick with a buffalo horn handle and silver band, engraved with their regiment and initials.

Talking to the injured servicemen, they are so very proud of their bespoke shirt and all tell me how much confidence and self assurance it gives them to wear it whilst they are now trying to re-integrate back into civilian life. One injured soldier, who was a double amputee along with having a severally injured face and hand, bravely made a speech about how they do not want sympathy and in fact will tell other injured servicemen to “man up”. This, to me, was an incredible leveller and I for one will certainly think twice the next time I am whinging or moaning about the most mundane matters. It genuinely put many things into perspective.

Emma called me the following morning after the party to thank me for staying until the end – or as she put it, “until they started clearing away the chairs.” The fact is, I didn’t even notice that I stayed that long, I was simply having such a wonderful evening with the guys that I could have stayed for hours more.

Style for Soldiers comes under the auspices of The British Forces Foundation and so far the cost of the shirts and sticks has been funded by generous donations from Emma’s customers and friends. But in order to continue making as many shirts and sticks as possible, more donations are needed and would be gratefully received. These can be made by sending a cheque payable to ‘Style for Soldiers’ to Emma Willis, 66 Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6NY or by donating online by clicking here. All proceeds go towards making shirts and sticks, not towards any administration costs. For more information visit Emmawillis.com.

What the injured service men and women also require are opportunities, not only for work and jobs but also for thrill and adventure. Many of them told me of the truly astonishing ideas they have for 2014 – competing in downhill skiing and motorboat racing are just a few things.

To go on and take a look back over the things I’ve done in 2013 after seeing and talking about the incredible bravery of the servicemen and women, all seems a little unremarkable.

EW & DG

HAROLD TILMAN