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Remembrance 2020 - Celebrating our Solent Veterans, Beth's story, Part 1

Beth Carter is Head of our Infection Prevention team at Solent. To help us celebrate Remembrance Day, she shares her two-part story as an ex-armed forces veteran, letting us into her experiences and what remembrance means to her. 

Part 1 – New Beginnings in the Navy

"I joined Solent NHS Trust in January 2016 and I am currently the Head of Infection Prevention.  I joined as a Band 6, progressed to Band 7 following a retirement and was appointed my latest role in the midst of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.  Talk about “in at the deep end”, I guess it was a case of sink or swim and thankfully I’m still above water.

"Prior to working in the NHS, I served in the military, a 17-year career spanning from 1999 – 2016.  I spend a lot of time reflecting on my military career, the places I visited, the friends I made and the skills it taught me.  This year, as armistice day draws closer, I have chosen to share my story and some reflections with you, some of which are very open and frank. 

"On the 12th April 1999, full of nervous excitement and anticipation, I boarded the train to Plymouth from Hull Station.  With three others I had met only weeks before at our pre-joining briefing, I waved goodbye to my parents and boyfriend, and off I went to become a sailor.  My destination was HMS Raleigh in Cornwall to commence my Royal Navy basic training.  Over the next eight weeks I was moulded from civilian to sailor learning essential skills such as, drill, sea survival, HAVOC drills (how to “mend” a sinking ship) and marksmanship to name but a few.  The first week we stayed in our own clothes, just in case anyone dropped out early, learning the basics, how to march, iron and fold our uniform correctly, even our socks for physical training had to be worn in a specific way. Did I get homesick?  Only in my final week, I think the sudden realisation of being in the military overwhelmed me and I just wanted to go home to mum! Thankfully I didn’t retreat, and I set off on what was to become a fulfilling and satisfying career. 

After my passing out parade at HMS Raleigh I moved on to my branch-specific training to become a Naval Dental Nurse.  After branch training, my first posting was to HMS Neptune, the nuclear submarine base on the west coast of Scotland.  Despite loving my new found career, I longed to be a nurse. After a series of applications, I was accepted to undertake my nurse training as a member of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service, at the Royal Defence Medical Centre, Fort Blockhouse, Gosport.  I did my nurse training between 2002 - 2005 and the cohort was a mix of tri-service personnel. 

On qualifying, I was posted to the Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit in Plymouth where I had the “pleasure” of completing the Royal Marine endurance course at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone as part of my training to be on standby for the Commando Forward Surgical Group.  I also spent time at sea onboard RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) Argus, the primary casualty receiving ship, where I was fortunate to spend time in the Bahamas and Florida. 

Despite all these amazing experiences, I was desperate to deploy on overseas operations and see all the military had to offer me, and so I made the decision to transfer to the Army as a Nursing Officer in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corp.

You can read part two of Beth's Armistice day blog 'Army life' here.

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