Chairperson Janet Riddell
Vice Chairperson Patrick Hill
Secretary Sheila Brown
Welfare Rep Bonnie Harrison & Jan Cartledge
Treasurer Jill Clare
Local Blesma Support Officer Pat Donnachie
Local Blesma Outreach Officer Andy Barlow
At the Portsmouth branch we aim to provide support and a sense of belonging for local Blesma members and their families.
In the past, the branch has predominantly been made up of older Veterans and Veteran’s widow(er)s. However, more recently we have seen a resurgence of younger Members who together with the older Members, have worked tirelessly to promote the important work of Blesma and the vital support they afford. This has been achieved through attending local events, running stalls, fundraising and handing out leaflets etc. The branch has even produced its own Blesma video, with the approval of the comms team, to play at local events.
As a branch we have monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of every month, whereby members get the chance to discuss both past and future events. It also gives the welfare representatives, of which there are currently 2, the chance to update other members on the welfare of those Members too incapacitated or ill to attend and, where practical, arrange visits should the Member so wish.
We are now fortunate enough to have a Blesma Outreach Officer, namely Andy Barlow, who attends meetings when his very busy schedule allows. One of Andy’s responsibilities is to arrange activities for Members in the local areas for which he is responsible, one of which is Portsmouth. One of the more recent activities included a morning on a speed boat running out of Gunwharf Quays. Each member was given the opportunity to drive the boat, this was also adapted for wheelchair users so all disabilities were catered for.
As a branch we have annual activities which include:
· A summer barbecue.
· Summer Lunch.
· Christmas Lunch. This year’s lunch took place on the 15th December 2019. All members and their families are welcome at a subsidised price. This usually attracts between 75 to 90 people.
· We also regularly get invites to attend annual lunches with nearby branches such as Southampton and Bournemouth.
"This years Xmas Lunch was held at the Brookfield Hotel in Emsworth on 15th December 2019. It proved to be a popular event with over 70 personnel in attendance, including members from the Southampton Branch. All in attendance appeared to enjoy the day and the feedback thus far has been extremely positive.
As the Chairperson, I would like to say a special thank you to both Sheila Brown for all her hard work in arranging the day and also to Jan Cartledge for putting together the raffle, which had an array of extremely good prizes.
It was also a sad occasion, whereby our long-standing President Heather Priseman, announced that she was to stand down as the branch President. Without Heather the branch would not be where it is today. All at the Portsmouth Branch would like to convey their sincerest thanks and best wishes to both Heather and her husband Peter for the time and support they have given to Blesma over many years.
The Lord Mayor and Mayoress were in attendance at the Xmas lunch as guests of honour, and as a way of saying thank you for services to Portsmouth Blesma, awarded Heather the 'City of Portsmouth shield', an award which was thoroughly deserved."
2019 also saw the following activities take place, which were arranged locally by Portsmouth branch members:
· A visit to the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth’s Chambers.
· A Royal Marine Theatre Performance given by the newly Passing Out Parade Band.
As a branch, it is of vital importance that we offer emotional support to our members, and activities such as those above help us to achieve this. Along with the welfare reps, the newly appointed chairperson, Janet Riddell, regularly volunteers to visit those who are unable to venture outdoors, this includes new amputees who are in in the early stages of rehab. As an ex Petty Officer Writer and amputee, Janet also offers Members a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Next year we are looking at organising a boat trip on the River Hamble (Southampton), which if it proves a popular event with Members, will be run as an annual event.
Should any Blesma member wish to join the Portsmouth branch please in the first instance contact Sheila Brown (Branch Secretary) on 07733102364.