The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) community across the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force attends over 2,500 suspect devices, WWII bombs, and terrorist situations in the UK each year.
This group of people who are on call 24/7 to assist the emergency services with such events: are the men and women of the EOD community who are continually on the front line protecting the country. You rarely see or hear of their contribution but members of specialist military EOD units and SO15 – the Metropolitan Police Counter Terror Unit – play a pivotal role in exploiting and, where possible, preventing terrorist attacks.
This continued exposure to highly stressful situations can have a lasting effect both physically and mentally on individuals. Felix Fund – the bomb disposal charity supports these brave professionals by providing much needed welfare support and financial assistance.
In the first years of its existence Felix Fund provided normalisation breaks for over 100 EOD teams on their return from Afghanistan. These breaks proved vital in reducing the risk of poor mental health among individuals in these teams.
Today Felix Fund continues to focus on the important issue of mental health amongst serving military and, in late 2015 we launched a programme providing stress training based on mindfulness techniques. Known as the Dashboard Courses; the aim is to provide individuals with tools and techniques which will enable them to recognise warning signs of stress and other mental health illnesses and to allow them to develop their ability to relax, clear their minds and focus on positive aspects of their life. This will then feedback into a more productive and stress reduced work and home environment. The Dashboard courses have proved very effective. How many training programmes will get a group of serving military doing yoga, breathing exercises and running around a room playing catch with fluffy toy?! The key to the programme is a totally relaxed environment away from work and home stresses, where individuals can focus on them self.
To date Felix Fund has had over 250 Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search personnel go through these courses, with fantastic results – a 98% positive response to the course and what it delivers, and 90% of people stating they would encourage colleagues to attend. Also, 80% stated they would continue with the meditation and breathing techniques.
“After the course I realise I am approaching certain situations differently. I have more appreciation for what and who is in my life.” LCpl serving in 101 Engr Regt
The course is not stand alone, it can be used as a signposting mechanism for additional help from Welfare Officers, medical practitioners or other charity programmes from the likes of Combat Stress or Help 4 Heroes where necessary. Aimed at all ranks, ages and regardless of where they are in their military career it has helped to break down barriers, formed tighter working relationships and enabled a large number of people to realise what effects their personal lives and work environment can have on their own mental health without them necessarily realising it.
Currently the courses are only open to serving personnel, but as we continue to develop the programme and raise more funds we will in the very near future be opening this up to veterans as well. Another key area for Felix Fund is providing hardship grants, to serving military, veterans and their family members when they find themselves in times of need.
In the Summer of 2018 Felix Fund – the bomb disposal charity reached a major milestone, that many charities strive to achieve; over £1million has now been paid out in grants to individuals and groups from across the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Search community from all three services as well as the Metropolitan Police Counter Terror Unit (SO15).
The assistance provided from this £1m has ranged from the provision of living expenses for a former soldier who needed to travel to Australia for pioneering surgery, after losing both legs in Afghanistan; a football wheelchair for the disabled son of a former Sapper and a specialist medical cap was provided for the baby son of a serving soldier. In addition, we have helped purchase bespoke sporting equipment for two former Sappers which then enabled them to compete in the Toronto Invictus Games last year, one of whom went on to win a silver medal, and such support as help with funeral costs, specialist counselling for the wife of a serving soldier suffering from severe mental health issues; the help offered by the NHS was not adequate for her needs, to travel costs for a family who had crowd funded to get specialist medical help in the USA for their son.
Felix Fund prides itself on the wide range of help and support it can give, and in many cases, we have been able to turn this assistance around, within a very short period of time – less than 24 hours from the request being received to the money being paid out, which enabled the family in question to get the immediate help that was urgently needed.
So where do we go from here?
The work these EOD and Search teams carry out never stops, we may never hear about much of it in the media but there are out there ensuring the country stays safe. Tragic events, such as the Manchester bombing and the attacks in London last year, as well as the more recent incidents with chemical weapons in Wiltshire call upon the men and women of the bomb disposal community. This continued exposure to high stress situations can have a lasting effect, and charities like Felix Fund are in place to ensure individuals and their families receive the support they need.
When Felix Fund was first set up the Trustees always said we would continue until such time as the help the charity offers was no longer needed. Since the early days of the charity the help has changed slightly, but there is certainly still a need. With unknown enemies both at home and abroad these personnel constantly face threats to their life and wellbeing, but this is just the day job for many. Whilst large numbers are no longer deployed overseas, those still serving deal with long periods away from home on duty and many veterans are dealing with their experiences, particular in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the mental and physical injuries they have suffered.
The support Felix Fund provides is wide ranging and is aimed at this high-profile tri-service community. At its heart is a desire to reduce the mental stress caused by conducting EOD & Search duties. For a small charity, its impact has been significant, and it is cutting edge in the services it provides. We are massively proud to have been able to pay out the sum of £1m to help these unsung heroes.
Felix Fund can only continue helping this unique group of men and women through continued support from individuals, companies and other organisations. So please consider:
making a one-off or regular donation
attending an event
taking part in a challenge
choose Felix Fund as your company’s charity of the year
sign up for our quarterly e-newsletter
following us on social media
For more information about the work of Felix Fund and how you can help us support more personnel who have conducted or assisted with Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Search duties please visit our website. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter @FelixFund.