Jun 102016

Wounded veterans whose injuries have ended their military careers are rebuilding their lives by training for rewarding and sustainable employment in civil aviation with a charity that has landed £18,000 from Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation. With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.


Wings for Warriors student Marc Goddard and instructor Chris Kirk.

Ex-service personnel overcome amputation, serious burns, multiple fractures and gunshot injuries to be chosen for rigorous flight training, gruelling academic exams, underwater escape training and regular tests as students with Wings for Warriors.
Aberdeen’s funding package will support one ex-veteran through 18 months’ full training to become a commercial helicopter pilot, leading to opportunities with the air ambulance, coastguard, offshore operators and others.

It helps students like Marc Goddard (28) who was serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan when he sustained life-changing injuries whilst travelling in an armoured vehicle which hit an improvised explosive device.

Marc was among casualties airlifted to Camp Bastion where he was stabilised and flown back home to hospital in the UK with  multiple broken bones and 25% burns to his body.

The complexity of his fractures meant he was no longer fit for service,  and while jobs in offshore marine security and events management followed, neither fitted the father-of two’s lifestyle or skills.

Marc explains:

“I joined the Royal Marines straight from school and I had never known anything different.  I hit a low, wondering how I was ever going to have a job that I enjoyed again and be able to support my family.

“I grew up in Norfolk around military bases and I’d always had an interest in aviation and did a bit of soul searching. I got back in touch with Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre  and spoke to the right people and found out more about Wings for Warriors. I had no idea they could help people like me but I discovered it was open to veterans in my position.”

Marc made it  through the tough application process and has embarked on training in Aberdeen, one of Europe’s busiest commercial helicopter centres, where the Wings for Warriors’ training centre is based.

Marc adds:

“I’m very grateful for the support I’ve had in making this dream become  a reality. This is not only providing me with a future career but everything I lost from leaving the Royal Marines is being restored. It’s a second chance, a second career that draws on many of the qualities of my military training to gain commercial skills and, hopefully, a career in the offshore helicopter industry.”

Chris Kirk was just 19 years old when he stood on an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan. Chris, then a Private with the 5th Scotland Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, awoke in hospital back in the UK to be told he’d lost his foot and his military career was over. His future seemed bleak until he discovered Wings for Warriors with an online search, “can amputees fly helicopters?”

Chris has become a fully qualified pilot and is now serving as an instructor for the charity and says:

“When I heard about Wings for Warriors I thought it was all too good to be true but I was lucky enough to be selected as one of their students. Fast forward three years and here I am as an instructor for the charity. I’ve been very lucky to get this opportunity and coming from a similar background as the students, I hope it inspires them to see just what can be achieved.

“Without support from our donors  like Aberdeen Asset Management, it would not be possible to do this and give veterans this fulfilling career that helps them and their families. I have been transformed from Chris the injured soldier to Chris the helicopter pilot and that is a massive change in my life. Wings for Warriors is helping change lives and prospects by restoring real meaning and purpose to people’s lives.”

Founded four years ago, Wings for Warriors is a registered UK charity which seeks to offer  wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women the best opportunities after military service has ended.

It sees the demanding and sustainable world of commercial aviation as an incentive to keep moving forward, rather then dwelling on the past for its students, and providing a means to continue supporting their families for years to come.

It recognises that veterans need to work for themselves and no allowances are made – each application is reviewed on a case by case basis and while some injuries will restrict opportunties, many of the attributes found in those with a military background,  including  responsibility, motivation and commitment, logical reasoning and functioning under pressure, stand them in good stead for retraining.

Through its network of volunteers and  donors, including Aberdeen, Wings for Warriors delivers professional flight training at around 85% of the costs of commercial UK flight schools.

Dominic Kite of Aberdeen’s Charitable Foundation says:

“We love this charity and what it does to offer a new start to injured veterans. For many veterans, life outside of the forces can appear daunting and uncertain at the best of times. Add a life-changing injury to the equation and the future can quickly become a depressing place.

“Wings For Warriors  provide these wounded warriors with the skills to achieve an exciting, rewarding and sustainable future for many years to come, in civil aviation. With rebuilt confidence, capabilities and pride Wings For Warriors graduates return to their communities as people to look up to instead of look after.”

Aberdeen Asset Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. It seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects.

The main focus of the Foundation is around emerging markets and local communities, reflecting the desire to give back to those areas which are a key strategic focus of the business and to build on the historic pattern of giving to communities in which Aberdeen employees live and work.

For more information visit http://www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

More information on Wings for Warriors is available at  www.wings4warriors.org.uk

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Dec 062013

By Bob Smith.
Candles lopro - Credit Ian Britton - freefoto

Black Friday noo it wis nae fun
A puir wifie trumpled on the grun
Fowk ower TV sets war scrappin
Cos in shops the price wis drappin
Black an blue they jostl’t an bumped
Some fowk feart they micht git thumped
Aa ower prices bein slashed richt doon
Mayhem an madness wis aa aroon
Black Friday hordes formed a scrum
As common sinse wint up the lum
“Tak yer thievin hans aff aat TV set
Or a bunch o fives ye’ll bliddy get”
The Black Friday idea it did start
Ower in America wi yon Walmart
Halloween sees pumpkins instead o neeps
Anither American custom ower here creeps
Civilisation a mannie eence said
Wis barbarism wi a veneer owerspread
Unnerneath micht be the savage beast
Unleashed tae gorge on Mammon’s feast
We’ve noo cam tae “The Retail Season”
Far fowk it seems can lose aa reason
Spennin siller they simply hinna got
An ither eens fair lose the plot
The festive season a like itsel
Bit nae the bliddy shoppin hell
On Christmas Day a’ll raise a cheer
“Retail Season’s” ower fer anither eer
A “Black Friday” cam tae Glaisga toon
Fin a helicopter cam richt doon
Throwe a pub roof near the Clyde
Fin fowk war haen a drink inside
So spare a thocht fer Glaisga noo
An fer the helicopter crew
Fer TV sets they’ll hae nae need
As “Black Friday” saw the puir souls deid
Agin ess sad an tragic tale
Materialism an sic like maan pale
Next time yer spennin yer bawbees
Myn life it disna growe on trees

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image credit: Ian Britton – http://s3.freefoto.com/images/

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Apr 062012

At the next meeting of Aberdeen CND on Monday 10th April, Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen CND and also a member of Campaign Against the Arms Trade, will be leading a discussion on the Arms Trade. The meeting will take place at 7.30pm on the Top Floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, Aberdeen.

The arms trade is a deadly, corrupt business. It supports conflicts and human rights abusing regimes while squandering valuable resources which could be used to deal with the many social and environmental challenges we face here on Planet Earth. It does this with the full support of governments around the world, in particular the five permanent members of the United Nations  Security Council: the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom.

These are the very countries which are meant to be our global custodians, but are in fact the very countries which are feeding global insecurity and conflict.

While very few countries sell large volumes of weaponry, the buyers are spread across the world. Other than to the five permanent UN Security Council members, the largest buyers are in the Middle East and South East Asia. The arms themselves range from fighter aircraft, helicopters and warships with guided missiles, radar and electronic warfare systems, tanks, armoured vehicles, machine guns and rifles.

The common misconception is that it is the illegal trade that is damaging, while the legal trade is tightly controlled and acceptable. However, the vast majority of arms sold around the world including those to human rights abusing governments or into areas of conflict are legal and are supported by governments. In 2007 the value of legal arms around the world amounted to 60 billion dollars. The illegal market is estimated at 5 billion dollars:  many illegal weapons end up as legal weapons.

The arms trade exists to provide weapons to those who can pay for them. What the buyers do with the arms, what political approval the sales signify, and how money could be better spent appears irrelevant to the arms companies and our governments. The UK Government’s 2010 Human Rights Annual Report identified 26 countries of concern. In that year the UK approved arms licences to 16 of these.

There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.

David Cameron was in the Middle East on a high-profile mission to sell arms when the democracy movement started in the Middle East. Selling arms to a country in conflict whether internal or external makes the conflict more deadly and longer lasting.
If there is tension between countries or within a country, then arms purchases are likely to increase this tension and make actual conflict more likely.

Even when conflict has ended, arms, particularly small arms, may remain in large numbers (as in Libya at present), fuelling further conflicts and/or criminal activity.

Every year the UK Government authorises the sale of arms to well over 100 countries. This is hardly surprising given that it is Government policy to vigorously support arms exports. Peter Luff, Minister of Defence Exports in the present UK Government, has stated that:

“There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.”

Arms companies and Government are inseparable when it comes to selling arms. The Government’s UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) department is a vital element of UK’s arms dealing. In 2008 the Government opened the Defence and Security Organisation which promotes weaponry on behalf of arms companies. There are 158 civil servants in the Defence and Security Organisation while other non-arms sectors have137 staff. This is despite arms accounting for less than 1.5 Percent of UK exports.

• Arms export jobs as a percentage of total employment:  0.2%
• Arms as a percentage of exports:  1.5 %
• UK Government Research Expenditure Spent on Arms:  27%
• UK trade and investment staff committed to selling arms:  54%

Research carried out for Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) by the Stockholm International Peace Institute assesses the level of subsidy by Government to the arms trade in the UK to be around £700 million a year.  In 2010 the UK Government issued 10,850 arms export licences, refused 230, and revoked 14.

Half of the refusals related to proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, with a maximum of 76 being revoked on the grounds that they contributed to internal repression, internal conflict or regional instability. Foreign office embassies also promote the arms sales, as do the Ministry of Defence armed services. Arms fairs are common in the UK and around the world.  The governments of host countries provides support for their arms firms.

Arms sales from the UK seem to vary from year to year:

• 2007    9651 million   (particularly high because of sales of Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia)
• 2008    4367 million
• 2009    7261 million also high as included Typhoon support services to Saudi Arabia)
• 2010    5819 million

Of the 16 countries identified by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as locations of major conflict in 2009, the UK sold arms to 12.

Columnist Will Self –  “War, the arms trade and the abuse of language”

BAE arms are the UK’s main arms company and has military customers in over 100 countries. BAE’s focus over the past few years has been on increasing sales to the US, specifically targeting equipment for conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and supplying Euro fighters and other arms to Saudi Arabia. BAE routinely supplies countries which the UK Foreign Office considers as having ‘the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns’.

The casualties of conflict are now overwhelmingly civilian, increasing from 50% of war related deaths in the first half of the twentieth century to 90% near the end of the century.

The arms trade affects development both through the money wasted on arms purchased and through the conflicts fuelled by arms.

A study in 2007 by Oxfam of the economic cost of armed conflict to Africa estimated that Africa  loses around 18 billion dollars a year due to wars and that armed conflict shrinks an African nations economy by 15%.

As well as the direct effects of military spending, medical costs and the destruction of infrastructure, there are indirect costs on the  economy and employment suffers ( this does not take into account the countless human misery caused by loss of life and sustained injuries effecting families and friends as well as the individuals concerned).

The study estimated that the cost  of conflicts in Africa since 1990 was equivalent to the aid provided to them by major donors.

Even when conflict is not taking place money diverted to arms is a drain on government resources and takes away from vital spending on health education and infrastructure. The massive 1998 South African arms deals for aircraft, helicopters, warships and submarines cost the country over £8billion. Yet most of the population live in shanty towns and other poor housing and South Africans with HIV/AIDS were told that the country could not afford ant-retroviral medication.

Despite desperate poverty and its recent appalling history of armed struggle, the UK government is actively promoting arms struggle to Angola. The UK government not only approved arms exports to Angola it actively organised an “industry day’’ when HMS Liverpool docked in Angola waters and hosted Angolan political and military officials.

The arms trade causes countless misery in our world; it is a poor use of limited resources which should be used to make this world a better place. We need to question the thinking in the world that believes you only get what you want by force. The five members of the Security Council should start taking on their responsibilities and use conflict resolution rather than warfare to sort the many conflicts that take place both between and within countries.

May 062011

Voice’s Old Susannah casts her eye over recent events, stories, and terms and phrases familiar as well as freshly ‘spun’, which will be forever etched in the consciousness of the people of Aberdeen and the Northeast.

Old Susannah checked her mailbox every day for the past few weeks, but never did get the invitation to the royal wedding.

I still went to London – not to stand out side of the palace to look at two people kissing, mind you – but just to see some friends and catch up on the latest fashions.  Just as well I didn’t go – I would have been wearing the same outfit and hat as Princess Beatrix (you remember the giant beige bow on her head?).

At the end of the day, I can safely say I was as emotional about the wedding as the rest of you .

Then it was time to vote.  The votes are still rolling at while I am writing; no doubt there will be some surprises.  Next year’s election will be key for Aberdeen; if we can only persuade the talented, selfless, intelligent individuals we have in the City Council to stay in place, we can look forward to more of the same prosperity, open government, security and prestige that we have today.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the Tullos Hill Roe Deer are still very high on every thinking person’s agenda – on the 10th I will approach HoMalone and her Committee, asking for a chance to speak on the subject.

Theoretically I shouldn’t be allowed to – the official papers for the Committee don’t mention the deer (these people don’t like mentioning deer, do they – whether in public consultations, or to the Torry Community Council).

No doubt they will let me speak, now that they know that Torry Community Council was bypassed in this sad affair and have unanimously condemned the cull.  Malone is quoted in the P&J this week as saying if the money isn’t offered for fencing, then the deer die.  Still, she sent me an email saying the Committee members were going to vote on the cull.

It is almost as if she is not sure of what is going on.  Still, my being at the Council should give her and me a nice chance to chat and get to know each other.  I hope she will be very happy in the £60 million Marischal building at her new desk in her new chair, safe in the knowledge she saved the taxpayer £225,000 for fencing.

But on with some definitions….


Firstly, most of the police are simply trying to keep the peace and keep us safe.  Hats off to them.  A small minority however are working for the rich and powerful, and some are (literally) taking the piss – I refer to the young officer who tried to dilute his drink-drive urine sample with water – what would have happened to one of us had we been caught in similar circumstances?

1.  to support, fund, encourage – e.g. the Renaissance painters were patronised by the wealthy and powerful Borgia and DeMedici families.  2.  to treat someone as infantile or childlike, or as otherwise incapable of understanding – unusually used in a derogatory sense.

A few months ago, our Grampian police cars sported the Stewart Milne Company logo – people who saw these cars did a double-take and stopped smoking funny cigarettes for a while – and then conducted some research.

It turns out that Stewart Milne Group is patronising the police by actually giving them money for some form of initiative or other.  In return the police take Milne advertising on their cars.  I have never seen this before.  I think it is a great plan.  Perhaps the BNP can pay for some new riot gear/crowd control equipment?  Who knows where this patronising/advertising scheme can take us?

Coincidentally, a few months ago at the Loirston Loch development hearing, the cost of policing the brand-new stadium was discussed – and it was suggested that AFC would have to bear the costs of policing any events.  I almost thought a faint shadow crossed Mr Milne’s shiny forehead at the words.  How unfair!  After all, the stadium will be to everyone’s benefit: the locals, farmers, wildlife – so we taxpayers should be proud to contribute.  I may make an extra contribution and see if I can get the police to wear ‘Old Susannah’ or ‘Aberdeen Voice’ badges on their lapels – we shall see.  At any rate, it must have been my imagination, but at this suggestion of AFC paying policing costs,

Fast forward to 2nd May and the Press & Journal.  Our very own – or rather Stewart Milne’s very own Chief of Police, has made a statement that AFC stewards can handle everything, and police are not needed.  I will have to take his word on this – he is the expert.  Any comments he made will of course be free from the fact that Milne has patronised the police.  No doubt a few stewards will have the same training, crowd control and knowledge of our local constabulary.  I would be quite happy for the police to continue their normal duties (ie contacting social activists about their activities and ‘incidents’ – see below).

Things are now so safe and violence free in the world of Scottish Football that letter-bombs are being posted to football managers, little boys are headbutted for wearing the wrong team’s jersey, and behaviour at ‘Old Firm’ matches are reminiscent of candlelit suppers.

So yes, the police are being patronised by Milne.  This has no influence on them at all.  I wonder, though – why do I feel just a little patronised?


Verb.  to attempt to frighten with threats; to coerce, to deal with political activists.

I hope we are all behaving and keeping in line; if not, you might quite rightly get a social call from the police.

This may be to help them with an ‘incident’ or ‘inquiry’ about protest activity, your taking photos at Balmedie – sorry – Trumpland, or your publicising the fact Aberdeen City has one or two empty buildings which could be used.  The police will show up at  some convenient time, and to let you know they are not intimidating you, they might talk to your friends and employer.

If you have been so bold as to speak to security guards, then you will have some serious explaining to do – or that’s what some activists have just found out.  If this happens to you, you can always ask to go to the police station for a chat rather than having them in your home.  You can always call a lawyer and have them over should the police want a friendly word.  But you should never go public with such a visit – this might make the police involved look bad.  And we can’t have that.

Opportunity Theft:

Noun – a type of petty theivery facilitated by ease of access to the desired objects.

One October about 2-3 years ago, I  found a wallet with a fair amount of cash – but the ID was in Polish, and I had no clue how to contact the rightful owner.  So I dutifully turned it into the Grampian Police Station.

A woman in the lost and found property section (just through the door on the left as you enter the station) took the wallet.  She didn’t seem that keen to take my details, so I offered them.  I also asked her for a receipt, which she declined to give me – probably part of a cost-saving exercise so I thought.  Some weeks passed, and I called to find out if the wallet had been returned to its owner.  I spoke to a woman – I presume the same one who was extremely vague on  the subject.  “If the wallet isn’t claimed, you can have the money” she said.

A few months after that a small piece in the paper caught my eye:  a woman working for the police had been arrested for…. stealing items from the lost property section.  Apparently she had been ‘taking her work home with her’ over a number of months.  I guess a girl’s got to supplement her income somehow.  I have since found one or two other items – but if I can’t find out who owns them, then I hold onto them.

I don’t know what kind of sentence the woman received, but I am sure they will have wanted to make an example of her:  we can’t have bad cops can we?

Military Manoeuvre:

Noun – to practice for battle conditions by scaring the bejesus out of the locals.  Perhaps the invasion of northern Scotland is much more imminent than we realise:  the armed forces are continuously staging ‘exercises’ in our airspace.

We need exercises – it helps burn fuel, increase the demand for military equipment, and thus stimulates the economy.

The truly vigilant jet pilot on exercise will be poised to intercept any aircraft in his path in the interests of national security.  If any oil industry helicopters should happen to be in operation during a manoeuvre, then they get what they deserve.  The military can hardly be expected to tell the civil aviation authorities that an exercise is underway – it would spoil the surprise.

Last July a passenger-carrying offshore helicopter was involved in a near-miss with a Typhoon jet – the jet pilot obviously mistook the copter for an invasion force, perhaps from Greenland or Faroe.  Good on him – you can’t be too careful these days.  The cost of a Typhoon jet is about £90 million in case you’re looking for a last-minute gift.  There have been a few multimillion pound problems with delays, technical difficulties and the like – but I can speak for us all when I say we are much safer with these jets looking for enemies in our airspace.