Sergeant Major Instructor James Donaldson, 44, of nearby West Lavington, received his Certificate of Meritorious Service from Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Sarah Troughton CStJ, during a ceremony at The Town Hall in Devizes.
James, who has been an adult volunteer with the Wiltshire Army Cadet Force for 26 years, is a qualified mountain expedition leader and each year prepares a group of Cadets for the annual Ten Tors Challenge.
With that experience he had a good idea of what kit and equipment might ease the plight of people forced to live on the street. It was a Christmas shopping trip to Salisbury with his wife five years ago that inspired him to take direct action.
He said: “It was a cold wet day and I was touched by the sight of a homeless man sleeping in a doorway. I realised how helpless and vulnerable a person can be when they’re out on the streets.
“I went home and sorted out a few things I no longer needed, then I rang round a few friends, asking them to do the same. We put together eight rucksacks that first year and now we’re up to about 20 each winter.”
The Army surplus Bergen rucksacks contain the essentials for someone forced to sleep rough – such as an Arctic sleeping bag, warm clothing, thermos flasks, hats and gloves, food in packets and cans and wipes.
James rallies friends and family to help him deliver the rucksacks to people living on the streets.
He added: “They don’t have much, so a big bag of warm clothes and food can make a huge difference. We stop for a chat and try to lift their spirits. Maybe it’ll give them a reason to get up the next day.”
James was an Army Cadet himself and finds his role as an instructor with Devizes Detachment, B (Anzio) Company, very rewarding. He explained: “I really enjoy getting to know all the different characters and watching them develop.
“I sometimes meet them years later and it’s great to hear how even some of the more mischievous ones have gone on to achieve great things. It makes me feel really good knowing that I’ve made a difference to their lives.”
“I do this work because it’s the right thing to do but it’s still wonderful to be acknowledged in this way.”
Others to receive the Lord-Lieutenant’s Certificate of Meritorious Service were:
- Major Nicholas Payne, 62, of Ferndown, Dorset. For outstanding support to Headquarters South West, the Army Reserve and the local community in the South West, most recently on Operation MORLOP (Salisbury nerve agent attack) but also on OLYMPIC (2012), PITCHPOLE (2014 flooding), TEMPERER (counter-terrorism 2017) and BOOMSTER (flooding 2018).
- Captain John Burton, of Salisbury. For extraordinary commitment to Wiltshire ACF during eight years’ service, initially commanding Downton and Sarum Academy Detachments, as well as being Company Sergeant Major D (Gallipoli) Company. He is now second-in-command of B (Anzio) Company, responsible for training of 160 cadets in 6 detachments.
- Flight Lieutenant James Gillespie, 64, of Swindon. For his efforts in single-handedly turning around 878 (Highworth) Squadron, ATC, through sheer hard work and determination. Yearly holidays were spent staffing cadet camps both national and international, all to ensure the Cadet experience was delivered.
- Major Philip McGiveron, 60, of Melksham. For exceptional service as a Reservist with the Royal Corps of Signals since retiring from the Regular Army in 1998. He undertook two tours on OP TELIC and another on Op HERRICK. He is a now a key individual within 254 (Specialist Group Information Systems) Signal Sqn, 15 Signal Regiment, organising selection and training for Specialist Reserve Officers.
- Lieutenant Ruth Musselwhite, of Salisbury. For enhancing the Sea Cadet experience for thousands of young people throughout 27 years of dedicated service as an adult volunteer. She has undertaken many roles at Salisbury Unit and is currently Training Officer and Officer in Charge of Junior Sea Cadets.
- Andrew Musselwhite, of Salisbury. For his unstinting commitment, both in uniform and now as a civilian instructor, to the Cadets of the Salisbury Unit. He is currently a specialist afloat instructor, training and inspiring Cadets to repeated success at District, Area and National competitive events as the lead Rowing and Dinghy Sailing Instructor.
- Lieutenant Mark Sedgwick, 49, of Salisbury. For 30 years’ dedicated service to the Sea Cadet Corps, initially with the Salisbury Unit. He commanded the Romsey Unit from 2005 to 2011. His commitment to afloat training has led to him qualifying as a Relief Waterborne Activities Safety Supervising Officer (WASSO) at the Royal Navy Sailing Centre.
The Lord-Lieutenant also announced the Cadets who will be assisting her in various duties over the next year.
They are: Cadet Sergeant Marcus Cox, of Trowbridge (Dorset & Wiltshire Wing, Air Training Corps); Cadet Staff Sergeant Robert Croager, of Salisbury (Old Sarum Detachment, Wiltshire ACF); Able Cadet Jacob Hedges, of Trowbridge (Trowbridge Sea Cadet Unit); Cadet Staff Sergeant Major Niamh Reavill, (Godolphin School Combined Cadet Force); Cadet Flight Sergeant Joseph Tingey, of Chippenham (Dorset & Wiltshire Wing ATC); Cadet Staff Sergeant Andrew Willmott, of Swindon (Abbey Park Detachment, Wiltshire ACF).