A grandmother, a software development manager and an exhaust manufacturer are just some of the people who make up the 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
These men and women spend their spare time training as soldiers in their role as Army reservists. Laura Wild spent three days with the troops in northern Italy, where they had swapped their home comforts for a intense two week long training exercise. Here she tells the stories of some of the Lancashire-based soldiers.
Sgt Shelley Davies, Preston
Grandmas have a reputation of feeding up the youngsters and baking tasty treats. Sgt Shelley Davies from Preston, has taken that to a whole new level - by feeding troops in war zones.
Shelley, 53, has been in the fourth battalion The Duke of Lancaster regiment for 18 years and prior to that she was a regular soldier in the Signals.
As a young girl Shelley’s parents had considered moving the family, including Shelley’s six brothers, to Australia – and ironically the one thing that stopped them was that the country still had national service.
Now between them, Shelley and four of her brothers have done 100 years service for the British Army and having brothers means the grandmother-of-two doesn’t struggle to fit in with the lads.
Speaking in between her duties during Exercise Roman Star, Shelley, who was raised in Chorley, said: “If you can give it back the more you give back the more they will give you. I go bright red very easily, so they like to make me go red.
“I’m lucky because I’ve got six brothers, I’m used to living with guys. Being brought up withthem it doesn’t really affect me much.”
As a chef in the Army Shelley is responsible for feeding up troops to ensure they are strong enough on the battlefield. Her speciality is a curry, although she didn’t give away her secret recipe.
The former St Alban’s High School pupil explained how she ended up in the Army Reserves: “I was ex-regular, I was in the Army and I met my ex-husband and got married and had kids and got out. Then when he left the kids were away every other weekend, I was bored so I joined the TA.
“I’m here, in Italy, as the ammunition but then we’ve got some cooking to do, my job in the TA is a chef.
“I like experimenting, I enjoy cooking and like my food. I also like TA because of the variety so we can do a mess function which is like seven courses, sit down and silver service or we can go out with the lads and be cooking for 100 people, just two or three of you.”
During the week the mum-of-two also works for the TA. She enjoys everything Army life brings.
She continued: “I did two tours of Iraq, I did six weeks in Cyprus on exercise, been to Hungary, I spent three years in Germany with the regulars.
“I was a chef with a regular unit in Iraq, It was an interesting experience. Out there it is a team effort, chefs were split in two, some during the day some during night.
“I like to think I’ve done a good job when I was in Iraq.”
The first time I spotted Shelley was in the field a day earlier, she had been playing the enemy in the scenario the soldiers were carrying out.
She said: “That is brilliant, I love it, because I don’t do it on a regular basis. It is nice to get out and get mucky and crawl around the floor and shoot a few people. It is nice to do it once in a while.
“You work hard and you play harder. I would recommend it for anybody. It is discipline but also self discipline.”
Sgt Tony Shuttleworth
“I love Army life.”
It was the promise of adventure that first prompted Colour Sgt Tony Shuttleworth to sign up to be a reservist.
Until earlier this year, the dad-of-three was an exhaust manufacturer for Bamber Bridge-based firm Bosal and he has been an army reserve for 29 years.
Sgt Shuttleworth’s role in this exercise included getting vehicles needed by troops from Preston to Spilimbergo in Italy.
He was the first person to greet me when I arrived in Italy and looked after me every day. His spirit never wavered, the tiredness never made him grumpy.
Over the years the former Lostock Hall High School pupil has travelled all over the world – including Kazakhstan, America, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Germany, France, Iraq – and done things he would never have done in his day job.
The-father-of-three said: “I have made a lot of good trustworthy friends and I have experienced different aspects of life that you don’t get in civvy street and the government is paying for me to be here.
“When you are out cold and miserable on a training area that can be miserable. It can be hard but you get through it.
“You do miss family events such as christenings and things like that, even a friend’s wedding I missed.
“The army tells you that friends and family come first but sometimes there are certain things you have got to do.”
“When I have had a civy job my TA has paid for a few luxuries. It is a second income,” he added as we stood in front of the Italian barracks, “You meet people from all walks of life, bricklayers, plasterers, lawyers, everyone you need.”
For Sgt Shuttleworth one of the harder parts of the job can be being away from family especially on his tour of Iraq.
“I don’t take any pictures of family away, that’s my own personal preference,” he says, “I felt if I had them to look at it would hit home more.”
But it seems his children, particularly sons James, 17 and Matthew, 15, want to follow in his footsteps and already have their sights set on a military career.
“The lads are used to the military,” he said. “They are in the cadets, they know what it is like to be in uniform. My son who is 17 is training to be a nurse through the NHS and he is going to go into the RAF and my other son wants to be a RAF police officer.”
Capt Giovanni Banks
“In one job I’m trying to be seen, in the other I’m trying not to be seen.”
When he’s not in charge of soldiers on exercise both home and abroad, Capt Giovanni Banks, from Chorley, works as a geotechnical engineer.
He spends a lot of time on site wearing high-viz, but in his army role he aims to keep out of view.
It was an unusual set of circumstances that led to Cpt Banks, who was brought up in New Longton, near Preston, sign up to the reserves.
“I started in 1998 when I was at the University of Liverpool studying geophysics and physics,” he says, “It was to pay my way through uni, I had been considering a career in the army.
“I became an officer when I was at university, I got employment as a geophysicist in Hemel Hempstead but fell out with that and went to Imperial College London and did a Masters in geotechnics.
“I worked as a geotechnical engineer in London before moving back five years ago. I now work as a geotechnical engineer in Manchester.”
The dad-of-one added: “I went to Iraq in 2005 for six months. It was challenging. It pushed me and was hard work. It was very hard to be away from family and friends.
“My wife is supportive and lets me get on with it. I have to take my hat off to her, she is the one at home who has to carry on.
The former All Hallows High School pupil adds: “I love travelling, you get to see different places, you experience different training areas and using different equipment.
“You find yourself in situations that a lot of the time normal civilian employment or life doesn’t offer, working out of your comfort zone and being pushed to produce something.
“There’s also the kind of people you meet and the friendships you make. Everyone is for the same cause.
“One minute it can be banter and the next it can be serious.
“Once I was at a crossroads to go regular or civvy street – I think I’ve got the best of both worlds now.”
To hear more stories from other Lancashire reservists watch the video above