The Army gave me a home, now it’s my turn to give the Army a home
Forces Manor is the passion of Tony Brown, an army Veteran.
At the age of 12 I joined the Army cadets and just four years later I took the Queen’s Shilling and signed up as a Regular soldier, first starting as a Junior Leader in the Royal Corps of Transport.
I didn’t have the best start in life. My childhood was a combination of hardship and torment beginning at seven months old when my mother abandoned me and I was placed into care in a south London children’s home where I stayed for over 15 years before joining the Army the first family I was truly a member of.
By chance and quick thinking, the day I joined the army was the day Forces Manor became my address, known then as the Ossian. Let me explain: I escaped the kids home in the morning and after arriving at camp in the afternoon, during the reception process, I was asked who my parents were and my leave address. I replied;
“Aint got none, and I aint got no
So I was then asked who was my guardian, to which I said:
“What’s one of them?”
The corporal taking down my details looked puzzled and said:
“Are you stupid or something?”
“No I honestly don’t know what a guardian is.” I said somewhat embarrassed.
And I truly didn’t, it’s just not something they told me in care, nor did it occur to me I would need an address to go on leave. I knew I wouldn’t be going back to the home. However, prior to joining the army, I had struck up a great relationship with the family in the Highlands of Scotland who owned the Ossian where I’d spent a few school holidays, I had no intention of telling anyone that I had been in a children’s home and so to avoid any more awkward questions, I gave the names and address of the Ossian only to then be told by the reception corporal;
“Okay, we will be writing to your
guardians to let them know you have
Oops. I hadn’t actually asked them about any of this although they knew I was joining up. What’s more, it turned out that the council, whose care I had been in, was still my legal guardian until I was eighteen, but I wasn’t telling the army that, although I guess they already knew. On my records, it may well have stated my address and guardians were Lambeth Council, but I wasn’t aware of that, and anyway I wouldn’t have revealed it even if I had known, a sad fact is, kids in care are stigmatised by an ignorant society.
Anyway, I put the Scottish family down as my guardian and home and at the first opportunity I called them to ask if it was okay and, to my relief, they said that it was absolutely fine. Not only that but I was to use their address for my leave if I wanted to.
It was an inspired move, opting for the holiday haven in the Scottish Highlands which had shown me that the world was so much more than torment and hardship.
The army accepted the Ossian Hotel as my address and gave me a home. Now, all these decades on, I can return the favour: in 2008 I became the owner of the beautiful hotel I had cited way back, in my desperation to avoid admitting that I had been raised, so carelessly, in care.
But before I took over the hotel, I became homeless when I sold my house to raise funds in order to bail out the hotel which had got into serious financial difficulty. It was an easy decision as the family had given me hope with a Post Code. I am now in the perfect position to give the building over to the army, by converting it into a Forces R&R centre for serving personnel, veterans and families, for injured and disabled soldiers and for cadets – I did not know many years on I would become the owner of the place and be able to give the building over to the army in such a positive way.
Whilst in the Army I served in the UK, Northern Ireland, Asia, Germany and across Europe, both as a Tank Transporter and an Artic Warrior. At one point I was the Army’s youngest specialist tank transporter at the age of just seventeen and a half.
Since leaving the Army, I have done many things and achieved success. I was ranked 10th British overall Snowboard Champion. I became an award winning publisher, writing and self- publishing the world’s first snowboard guide, Europe’s first ‘Snow Atlas’ in association with Collins, which was voted ‘Book of the Week’ by The Observer. I then published a series of pocket books relating to Scotland’s National Park, which received Royal backing from Her Majesty the Queen’s Balmoral Estate.
When I hung up my Army uniform, I didn’t give up on my Army interests, and in 2016 I became the Treasurer for one of the UK’s largest active Army group for veterans and serving soldiers. At the same time I became the Publishing Editor for a much loved army magazine. I am currently writing a unique time-lined book of my military journey to raise funs for vulnerable children in care, which I was, and for homeless and injured soldiers, which I could have been.
In 2017 I wore the Queen’s uniform once again when I became a Sergeant Instructor in the Army cadets with the 1st Battalion the Highlanders based with the Aviemore Detachment.