Posted: Tue 23rd Jun 2020

Armed Forces Week: Welsh Ambulance Service thanks Flintshire veteran Les

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jun 23rd, 2020

The Welsh Ambulance Service is celebrating its service men and women past and present for Armed Forces Week (22-27 June).

Dozens of veterans work across the organisation having served in the Armed Forces, and are supported by a growing number of reservists

Flintshire-based Fleet Assistant Les Hughes, a former Warrant Officer in the Royal Air Force, has been working alongside LCpl Colin Scott of The Royal Irish Regiment through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Les said: “I grew up on a farm and while I was fond of that way of life, I knew there wasn’t a job there for me. I used to sit at the top of Pen-y-Ball Hill in Holywell and look out over the Wirral and think: ‘There has to be more to life than this.’ Aged 12, I joined the air cadets.

“I was always mechanically minded and wanted to learn to mend trucks. It was my thing. That’s when I decided to pursue a career in the Royal Air Force as an engineer.

I joined the Royal Air Force in 1974, aged 16. I did my basic training at RAF Swinderby in Lincolnshire, followed by 18 months of training in St Athan, South Wales.

As an Engineering Technician, I served on various units across the UK and overseas, including in Germany and Belize.

I was a support engineer rather than an aircraft engineer, so I basically serviced anything that didn’t fly, including refueling tankers, forklifts, fire engines and so on.

In 1982, I went to the Falklands on the QE2. I spent four months there, where my role was as an engineer on a missile defence system. We weren’t on the frontline as such but we helped to keep the wheels turning on the operation.

Fleet Assistant Les Hughes

It was while I was in the Falklands that our first child Peter was born, but he was actually two days old by the time the message had reached me that my wife had given birth. They had to find a satellite phone so that I could call home, and Peter was a fortnight old by the time I’d met him for the first time.

In 2006, I was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Telic, where my role was to service airfield support vehicles. I thought I’d only do nine years in the military but I stayed for 38, eventually leaving in 2012 when my wife and I moved from Bristol, which is where we’d been living, back up to North Wales.

I knew I wanted my next job to be practical and hands-on, so when I saw that the ambulance service was advertising for a Fleet Assistant, I went for it.

The role of a Fleet Assistant is to clean and re-stock the ambulance vehicles, a job which historically, the paramedics themselves have had to do. The idea of Fleet Assistants is that it frees up their capacity so they can spend more time with patients in the community.

The decontamination of ambulance vehicles has never been more important through the Covid-19 pandemic, which is why we’ve enlisted the military to support us.

I have to say, they’ve been fantastic. I’ve never met such an enthusiastic group of people with such a positive attitude. They’ve been a breath of fresh air.”

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We have a long-standing relationship with the military and were very fortunate to have secured their support through the pandemic. There are a lot of similarities between the Armed Forces and emergency services, not to mention the transferrable skills, so it’s no surprise that members of that community will gravitate towards a career in the ambulance service. We’re privileged and grateful for the veterans who work across the service, and for our growing cohort of reservists too.”

LCpl Scott, 32, currently serving in the Royal Irish Regiment’s C COY Machine Guns Platoon, said: “I was born and raised in Northern Ireland and knew from a young age that I wanted to join the Army. I was 22 when I completed my basic training at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire, before joining the Royal Irish Regiment.

It’s taken me all over the world, including on large scale exercises in Germany, Spain, Kenya, the Falklands and Afghanistan twice; once on Operation Herrick 13 in 2010, where I conducted operations in Helmand Province, and again on Operation Toral in 2019, where I was based in Kabul.

Although Herrick was a combat role, with the main effort based around counter insurgency, it was both challenging and rewarding. My wife was pregnant during my second tour so I found that to be more of a challenge. Our son Xander was born in December 2019, shortly after my return.

LCpl Colin Scott (L)

This is the second time I’ve been tasked to support the NHS, having driven frontline staff to work when we had bad snowfall in Shropshire a couple of years ago. I’ve really enjoyed my time at the Welsh Ambulance Service; everyone has been so welcoming and have displayed extreme professionalism.

It’s a completely different tasking to what I’m used to, but I was more than happy to have been part of the country’s Covid-19 effort.”


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