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Latest News 19 January 2021

In the spotlight: Pete Shields

Stalwart Blesma Support Officer Pete Shields could write a book about his time at the Association, and it would be full of warm memories, tough battles, and triumphs for Members. He’s been on the front line of Blesma’s welfare efforts in the North East and Scotland for the last 15 years, serving his ‘flock’ of 300 Members and Widows with enthusiasm, humour and grit.

“It’s been an honour,” says Pete, who retired from the role at the end of November. “I will miss the Members, my colleagues, and being part of this great organisation, but I’ve loved every minute of my time here. For me, there’s no greater pleasure than being able to assist someone who thinks that there’s no assistance for them; to advocate on their behalf when they feel all is lost is one of Blesma’s great strengths.

“We’ve successfully navigated our way through many encounters with statutory services, and represented Members at tribunals when they didn’t think they stood a chance. To get a result for them gives you a great feeling. It gets them extra support or financial assistance, which can improve their quality of life no end. I think Blesma is like the military in that it adapts to circumstances and deals with them.”

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Pete Shields MBE QGM
Peter Shields
Pete sitting for artist Tom McKendrick’s 33 Soldiers

Pete’s casebook has been full of complex claims and regulatory challenges for the last 15 years, but it has also been a place for humanity and enduring friendships.

“Helping the Members has been a great job, and meeting them and getting to know them and their families has been a real privilege,” says Pete, who retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Logistic Corps after a decorated 37-year career.

“I’ve got so many fun and warm memories of events. There’s an amazing camaraderie in everything Blesma does, and I’ll look back and smile about things for years.”

Pete joined the Royal Corps of Transport Army Reserves in 1968 before transitioning to the Regular Army in 1971. His service took him on tours of Northern Ireland, the Balkans, and the first Gulf War, where he was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for his actions guiding troops to safety when a munitions dump blew up. He served as a lay magistrate on the Children’s Panel in Scotland, and was awarded an MBE in 1995 for his work with social services. He left the Army in 2005 and, after a brief stint as CEO of the Yorkshire and Humber Cadet Force, heard of the Blesma post at the last minute. He raced from his home in Lincolnshire to make the interview panel in Essex.

Pete presenting a 75th Wedding Anniversary gift to Blesma Member Ken and his wife Vera

A lot has changed, but I like to think our dedication to our Members remains a constant, and will always be so

Pete Shields MBE QGM

“I got there just in time and was fortunate enough to get the job. A lot has changed since then, and the Association has grown, but I like to think that our dedication to the Members has remained a constant, and will always be so,” he adds.

“My motivation has always been clear: during my service I’ve deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Gulf, and completed four tours of Northern Ireland way back in the difficult days. Coming through something like that spurs you on to help people who have suffered more than you have. In the Forces, you’re part of a team and you always want to help people in your team. I think Blesma is an extension of that ethos. I see the membership as my team; they are affectionately called our ‘flocks’, and the togetherness that Blesma provides is something unique.”

Pete has helped Members secure a range of support over the years, and was instrumental in establishing a membership database which enables Blesma to have a greater awareness of Members’ individual needs. His retirement may reduce his workload but Pete is unlikely to slow down too much. His family designs, manufactures and sells ceramics to the retail and wholesale sectors, and his interests include clay pigeon shooting, weight training, boxing, IT and DIY.

“I wasn’t ready to retire from Blesma when I got to 65,” he says. “I’m still not really ready to retire at 70, but you have to stop sometime otherwise you don’t allow fresh blood to come through, and there’s nothing better than reinvigorating a system with fresh ideas. The passion and commitment from my successor will be just as strong. The Members won’t notice any difference and Blesma, of course, won’t miss a beat."

I will miss everything about the job, but I’m thankful to have served the Association and its Members."

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