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With years of history in the city, Ripon’s Army bases have played a part in hundreds of forces careers – and the family lives that have followed them.
Serving in Afghanistan with the 21 Engineers – the regiment based in Ripon since 2008 – are some of the sappers who have seen their careers unfold from the city’s barracks.
Servicemen like WO2 Steve Long, whose first ever posting brought him to the city in 1990 and who has spent around 14 years since based in the city. He returned to the Royal Engineer regiments based in Ripon as a Corporal in 2000, as a Staff Sgt in 2006, and finally as a Warrant Officer in 2011.
Coming back to Ripon time and time again means WO2 Long, originally from Durham, wife Lynne, and their children Liam, 15, and Kelsey, 14 – both students at Bedale High – can stay close to Lynne’s parents David and Hazel Edwards, who live in the city.
“I’ve tried to stay around Ripon as much as I can to give the kids chance to stay in one school and make friends,” he said.
As a veteran of three Afghan tours, WO2 Long, 41, is used to being away from family but that does not make the separations any easier, he said. “I still miss my wife and family, and all the usual things,” he added.
Like WO2 Long, Capt Stuart Pattison, 43, has seen four postings bring much of his 26 career to Claro Barracks. Originally from Blythe, Capt Pattison arrived in Ripon as a young Sapper – the most junior rank in the Royal Engineers – in 1986. Nearly three decades later he is serving with them in Camp Bastion.
He said: “When I arrived in Ripon in 1986 it was my first posting after training – I was there from 1986-9 and served in the Falkland Islands, Cyprus and Germany.”
He returned as a Sergeant from 1997 to 2000, and as 21 Engineers’ Regimental Sgt Maj (RSM) from 2008 to 2009, when the 21 Engineers moved into Claro Barracks and 38 Engineers – Capt Pattison’s old regiment – moved out.
He said he was thrilled to return to Ripon as the most senior soldier in the regiment and spoke of his pride at coming back to the city.
“To start as a junior soldier and then finish in Ripon as RSM – I was chuffed to bits.
“My last day in Ripon as RSM was the day we exercised the Freedom of the City, so the last thing I did in Ripon was to march the soldiers through the city.
“I could remember standing there as a young Sapper with the Regimental Sgt Maj shouting at us – then I did the same thing 22 years later. I was chuffed to bits.”
As a young man, he said he could have never imagined what his future with the Royal Engineers would hold.
“I had always wanted to join the Army. As a junior soldier I just had a cracking time, and before I knew it I had been in the Army 10 years.
“It never crossed my mind that I would become an RSM. I don’t think I even considered being a Corporal.”
Then, after two decades as a soldier, Capt Pattison received his commission and became an officer only to return to the same corner of Yorkshire to a posting at Harrogate’s Army Foundation College. He stayed for two years before coming back to Ripon once again.
Now as squadron quartermaster in Camp Bastion his job is to supply the Engineers’ soldiers based at smaller bases around Helmand province with all they need for their work, and to make life in the remote spots more comfortable.
It’s a job which makes Bastion-based support staff like Capt Pattison the “unsung heroes” of the regiment, according to the current Regimental Sgt Maj Paul Gallimore,
And after so many postings around Ripon, Capt Pattison’s family – wife Sue and children Ryan, 7, and Ellie, 3 – are settled in the area.
He added: “I have still got close friends from my junior soldier days, and the guys I was in Ripon with in 1986 have started a reunion.
“It began with just nine people in the first year, and this year there were more than 30. To get so many 40-plus men in Bronte’s, or the Matrix as it is now, is quite something.”
While he was based at the Army Foundation College (AFC) in Harrogate, Capt Pattison trained dozens of young soldiers who, like him, joined the Army as teenagers.
Among them was 20-year-old Spr Graeme Brown, now serving alongside him in 21 Engineers.
“I wanted to join the Army from the age of about 15 so I left school after my GCSEs and went straight to the Army careers office,” Spr Brown said.
“I was going to join as an infantry soldier but that doesn’t leave you much to fall back on so I decided to get myself a trade.”
Like every other soldier in the Royal Engineers, Spr Brown is trained as a soldier, a combat engineer, and a tradesman.
He arrived in Ripon to join the 21 Engineers just two weeks before the regiment left for Kenya to begin training for this tour in Afghanistan.
“A year later, he is getting used to life in Helmand province on his first operational tour of duty.
“I have just been cracking on and doing what I need to do. Being busy makes the time fly through,” he said.
“My family wasn’t surprised when I joined up because they knew that was what I wanted, but my mum worries now I’m out here, just like any parent.
“I keep in touch as much as I can, but I know my sister Leanne, who’s 14, misses me – especially at times like family holidays.”
And only a few years into his Army career, he doesn’t see any reason why he won’t serve as long as his former trainer Capt Pattison.
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