A GROUP of 13 women took to the streets of Edinburgh for a charity walk to show their support and solidarity for soldiers serving in Afghanistan – including their husbands.
They got together at Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade to begin the nine mile stretch, raising cash for White Hackle, a charity set up to support injured soldiers and their families.
Michelle Gray, 36, is married to Sergeant Stuart Gray, who has been in Afghanistan for six weeks, she said: “It’s a cause close to all of our hearts as all the money we raise will go to families who are distressed or have wounded men returning.
“I think it’s important for us to have this support mechanism as all of these women are going through exactly the same thing as me.
“We’ve all got young families and husbands who are away, so doing this is really important to us all.
“When it came about no one hesitated, everyone wanted to take part – and it’s good for keeping fit.”
Mrs Gray has two young children, Amy, seven, and Molly, five.
She said each of the women has raised about £150 each and they are hoping to reach a target of around £3,000.
The group of army wives braved the cold this morning as they set off on the walk, ending at the Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik, where their husbands’ Battalion – The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2 SCOTS Battalion – recently departed for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Nicola Cox, 24, has been married for five years, and her husband Corporal Scott Cox is on his second tour in Afghanistan in three years.
She said: “I think taking part in something like this helps me to feel like I’m doing something for him and the other guys out there.
“It’s really difficult when he goes away, I’ve got two small children – a son aged four and a daughter at two – so the last time he went away our girl Victoria was only three weeks old.
“I’m finding it a bit easier this time because I can tell them where their Daddy has gone and they sort of understand.
“My son is much more aware this time but it can be hard explaining to them both, and hearing them say they miss him can really tear you up.”
Mrs Cox said she thinks it is important to have a support network around her, as all of the other women are in the same boat.
She said: “We are a really tight group and we all support each other.
“When one is having a bad day there is always someone there to listen and vice versa.”
Organising the event was Captain Walter Barrie, the Battalion’s welfare officer.
He said: “I think it’s fitting that we do this walk on a Friday because for these ladies the weekends can often be the worst time for them.
“That’s when they have time to dwell on what’s happening and for many of them this is the first time their husbands gave gone away, which can have a huge impact on the whole family.
“We wanted to do something that would help to ease that blow, both for the wives of soldiers here today and for families all over the country who may have dads and husbands coming home wounded.
“A nine mile walk does seem like quite a long way, but these wives are made of good stuff.”
Joining the ladies on their walk was mascot Baxterbear, who was there as a figure of support.
Squadron Baxter was an RAF pilot shot down during the Second World War and he was found in the jungle by a Gurkha patrol with a child’s teddy bear in his jumpsuit.
After being rescued he came back to Edinburgh to live near the Castle as a wounded pilot.
Colonel Simon Vandeleur, Garrison Commander of 2 SCOTS, supports the Battalions as they deploy to Afghanistan.
He said: “The story of Baxterbear is quite fitting here, as Squadron Baxter was found hanging in his parachute canopy three days after he was shot down, and I think it gets across a real message of hope.”
REPORT: Christine Lavelle