When the mournful sound of the bugle playing the Last Post fade away, and the two minutes silence begins this Armistice Sunday, the 102 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers of East Kilbride will stand to attention in memory of all those who fell in the Great War – and all wars since.
Among them will be Stuart Robinson – one of the newest recruits to the reservist battalion and a SCADA engineer with SP Energy Networks. And the centenary of the end of the First World War will be his first Armistice Day with REME.
Stuart joined SP Energy Networks five years ago through the graduate scheme, and while his day job sees him work with the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system which is vital for the smooth operation of the Control Room, every Wednesday evening – and at least eight weekends a year – he swaps shirt and tie for khaki fatigues as an Officer Cadet with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).
REME is the corps of the British Army which keeps the forces moving. Established during WWII it maintains the equipment that the Army uses, from tanks, guns and helicopter to the computer technology which lies behind rocket launching systems. Indeed, so vital to the Army was REME’s creation that it was described at El Alamein by Field Marshall Montgomery as keeping the “punch in the Army’s fist”.
So for an engineer who wants to volunteer with the Reserves, REME was the obvious choice. Stuart says: “As a teenager I was in the Cadets and while at university I was in the Officers Training Corps, which is an Army reserve unit but exempt from deployment. However, I realised I wanted to be an engineer so I joined SP Energy Networks rather than the Army. Becoming a reservist with REME is the best of both worlds for me.
“Serving in the forces was always something I wanted to do as my dad was in the Royal Navy for 23 years, which definitely inspired me. The graduate scheme meant I moved around quite a bit and my fiancé was working down south so I couldn’t commit the time. However, when she moved back to Scotland last year I was able to commit to joining the Reserves.
“It will be my first time on parade on Armistice Day. I’m looking forward to it, as it’s always an important day for the unit.”
While he joined to learn new skills, Stuart is already an Officer Cadet and will be promoted to 2nd Lieutenant when he completes eight weeks of training at Sandhurst, starting in January. “I’m really looking forward to it. Since I joined REME I’ve learned general skills, including how to use a rifle, and there’s been a lot of physical training for fitness. Alongside that there’s been preparation for becoming an officer, which is when I’ll be able to take on a Platoon Commander’s role.
“Sandhurst will be good fun and will develop my organisational skills further. I think being a Reservist gives you skills which are transferrable to the workplace – discipline, being a self-starter, and working well under pressure.
“It’s great that SP Energy Networks understands the value of volunteering with the Army. While Sandhurst will be covered by a combination of holidays and unpaid leave having the support of my work so I can take this on has been very important.”
SP Energy Networks has a history of supporting the work of the Armed Forces and veterans. CEO Frank Mitchell signed the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of ScottishPower, pledging to “support the Armed Forces community” and recognising the value contributed to the UK of serving personnel, both regular and reservist, veterans and military families.
Apprentices and graduate trainees are given the opportunity to join in exercises with REME, seeing how their skills and training can be put to use in other ways. In September a team of second-year graduates experienced a simulated combat training exercise when they visited REME’s Kirkcudbright training area.
And in the community SP Energy Networks’ staff also show their support for the forces, especially around Armistice Day.
In Middlewich this year, volunteers installed 300 large poppies on lamp-posts to commemorate the unveiling of 14 new names inscribed on the town’s War Memorial, while the Esclusham Memorial Gardens in Rhostyllen have been illuminated for the first time thanks to SP Energy Networks’ sponsorship of the electricity supply. In addition, a team of six SP Energy Networks staff and suppliers, some ex-service personnel themselves, volunteered to excavate, lay cables and connect the site to the power network.
And of course it’s thanks to the safe and reliable supply of electricity by SP Energy Networks that 87 public buildings across central and southern Scotland are able to be lit red to mark the centenary of the Great Wars’ end and support the Scottish Poppy Appeal.
For its work with the armed forces community SP Energy Networks was awarded a Silver Employer Recognition Scheme award – given by the Ministry of Defence to acknowledge businesses which go beyond their Covenant pledges.
Nia Lowe, Strategic Workforce Renewal Manager for SP Energy Networks, said: “This Covenant, and our successful partnership with 102 Battalion REME, means that SP Energy Networks supports staff who wish to join as Reservists and in turn REME supports us with leadership and personal development activities.
“Our work with the armed forces brings benefits to the company, and we believe our support for the armed forces community likewise offers them support they might not otherwise receive.”