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28 March 2012, 06:00 | Updated: 28 March 2012, 07:41
A group of Suffolk army wives have set up their own version of the Military Wives Choir.
Backed by a £1,000 donation from the Royal British Legion, the Wattisham Military Wives Choir has brought together wives and girlfriends from the base to support each other through a shared love of singing.
The choir was inspired by the success of the TV 'The Choir: Military Wives', which saw musical maestro Gareth Malone teach partners of Armed Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan to sing.
The choir at Wattisham Flying Station was set up in January by Sally Wilkinson while her husband Captain Phil Wilkinson was serving in Afghanistan and regularly has 35 women turning up for weekly rehearsals.
Wattisham is the home of the Army’s Apache attack helicopter and troops from the base have maintained a permanent deployment in Afghanistan since 2006.
Colin Hawkins, the Legion’s Suffolk county chairman, said: “We’re delighted to support the Wattisham Military Wives’ Choir. Soldiers’ wives suddenly become single parent families when their husbands deploy and the choir is a great way for them to support each other and it sounds fantastic too.”
Sally said: “I was inspired by the TV show and just wanted to do something to bring wives at Wattisham together, to both have fun and look after each other while our husbands are away on operations. It has started off a real buzz around the camp and a lot of new friendships have been made.
“One or two women have a musical background, but most of us started from nothing more than singing in the shower!”
The choir, which is led by choirmaster Michael Dann, had its first performance at a function in the officers’ mess earlier this month.
Sally said: “Everyone was apprehensive and neither the choir nor the audience really knew what to expect. But it went very well, which boosted everyone’s confidence and there are some strong voices beginning to emerge.”
Clare Ellard, whose husband Lance Corporal Luke Ellard is currently in Afghanistan, said: “For me, the choir is two hours a week to just enjoy myself and forget all my worries. Luke thinks it’s brilliant and asks every time we speak what the choir’s been singing.
“Recordings of our rehearsals have been sent out to Afghanistan. It lets the guys know that their wives are looking out for each other back home and that helps them concentrate on their jobs.”