A businessman with 26 years’ service in the Army is rallying support for the troops.
Warrant Officer turned ice-cream bar entrepreneur Michael Murphy is teaming up with the Royal British Legion to raise funds and support for ex-service personnel returning to civvy street.
Mr Murphy served across the globe, from Belize to Northern Ireland and Iraq to Afghanistan, as well as guarding Buckingham Palace and the Crown Jewels, during his time in the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards.
But last year he made the transition to business owner when he and his wife Alison opened the Ice Bar in Newgate Street, Morpeth.
Mr Murphy quickly settled into his new role, but he realises that it is not always so easy.
So 12 months on, he has decided to collect funds for the Royal British Legion, provide information about its work and offer his personal support to any ex-services member who wants to chat.
“There is a lot of ex-service personnel in Morpeth and the county, and many people tend to struggle when they leave the Armed Services.
“With the centenary of World War One, Armed Services Day coming up and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year, it seemed a good time to raise some money and awareness,” he said.
“If someone has never served in the Armed Forces they don’t understand what it is like.
“Quite often, people who have served don’t want to open up to anyone unless they been in the same boat.
“In World War Two you had communities where people joined up together and when they came back they could talk to the friends they had served with. In the modern day people feel they have no one to turn to like that.”
Mr Murphy says people can find support at the RAFA club in Wellway, but they can also drop in at the Ice Bar.
“When they go to join the Army, people might be afraid to take the first step of walking through the door.
“It is probably the same for the ex-services clubs and trying to talk to someone.
“If they can come here and use me as a middle-man, I’m happy to do that.”
The business will have a collection tin and is planning a Poppy Picnic later this summer, with a specially created ice-cream.
Funds will go to the Royal British Legion, which offers support to both serving and ex-services personnel, and their families. It can help with career transition, advice and funding support.
Case worker for the area Neil Melville, who often calls into the Ice Bar on his rounds, said: “The work we do is so important for the Armed Forces personnel.
“People think the Poppy Appeal is just once a year, but there is a lot more to it than that so we are always grateful for support.”
Coldstream Guards Sergeant Mark Dryden said: “I think we need to educate the services community about the work the Royal British Legion does and how it can help.
“It has a big role and it is important for people to know about the support system that is there for them when they leave the Army.
“Neil is a volunteer who has never served in the forces, but he, and other people like him, give up his time for the forces and that means a great deal to us.”
For more information about the Royal British Legion, visit www.britishlegion.org.uk