Former RAF officer takes helm of Gloucester's Royal British Legion
FORMER RAF wing commander Sophy Gardner has taken the helm at Gloucester’s Royal British Legion.
Ms Gardner, who is also standing as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the Gloucester seat in the 2015 General Election, was this week appointed as president of the city branch of the veterans’ organisation.
She was elected to the post having served in the RAF in such far-flung places as the Congo, the Balkans, the Middle East and Afghanistan during her career.
She said: “I felt incredibly honoured to be asked to represent the Gloucester city branch as their president.
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“As a veteran myself, and having worked and volunteered with veterans of all ages, including many from the Second World War, I look forward to representing our military and veteran communities in Gloucester.
“Alongside the vital work our branch does in supporting Gloucester’s veterans today, it is so important to me to remember those who gave their lives in the past for our freedom and our future.”
Her first major appointment after taking up the role was representing the branch at Gloucester’s VJ Day celebrations on Thursday.
Ms Gardner, who is originally from south London, became an air operations officer when she joined the RAF. Her first posting was at RAF Lyneham, when she was also deployed to the Congo. She was then posted as the sole RAF officer on HMS Invincible when it was deployed to the Balkans in 2000.
She was in charge of all RAF transport and refuelling assets worldwide at the time of the attack on the World Trade Centre and was subsequently awarded an MBE for her service during a period, when she also oversaw tasking of work on UK assets in Afghanistan in 2001 and the transfer of war criminal Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague.
She became personal staff officer to Commander UK Forces Iraq 2003, visiting most Arab countries in the region. She was later deployed to Helmand province, in Afghanistan, to help with the arrival of UK forces in 2006.
Having moved around 35 times, Ms Gardner eventually quit her military career in 2011 and has since made her first foray into politics.
She secured a visit to Gloucester by Labour leader Ed Miliband last month, in which he met the city’s veterans.
Garry Mills, chairman of the Legion’s city branch, said: “Sophy is the right person for the job with her RAF background. She took charge of many people in her role as wing commander and she is exactly what RBL is about.”