Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Bid to build purpose-built room for repatriation ceremonies
Buy this photo » Left to right: Jill Pates, Millie Millington, Linda Arter, Terri Jory, Helen Orr, Pam King and Eveline Gillians
THEY make thousands of sandwiches, serve hundreds of cups of tea and, without any training even comfort bereaved families, never asking for a word of thanks.
Now the women who cater for repatriation ceremonies at Brize Norton are hoping to improve their operation, following a number of generous donations.
The caterers, and Carterton Town Council, are planning to create a purpose-built room to provide military families with some much-needed privacy.
At the moment, receptions take place in one large room, where bereaved and sometimes distressed families are shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers.
Repatriation volunteer Eveline Gillians, 74, said: “Some families like to mix; others are in incredible distress. We are absolutely desperate to get this space for the families if they need it.”
The 34 local women cater the repatriation ceremonies in teams of eight.
On the side of the pavilion is a large shed where all the mowers are kept, but it could be cleared out and made into a room where families can have privacy.
But, adding in heating, creating proper access and access to toilets, not to mention the redecorating, will cost around £55,000.
The town council is currently waiting for several grant applications which should bring in around £40,000, but they have already received several donations, including £5,000 from local charity music collective Hopeful Notes, featuring Richard Frances.
Mr Frances and Hopeful Notes put on three small concerts in September and October.
He said: “What better cause than this? The repatriation ladies give up their Thursdays to make sandwiches, it is all quite new to them.
“Some of them are really good at consoling parents, some are good at making teas, some make brilliant sandwiches.
“They cater for the hundreds of people who converge on Carterton pavilion.”
Other donations have come in from the RAF Benevolent Fund, and armed forces charity SSAFA, who have each pledged £5,000.
The town council is now waiting on applications for grants from Help For Heroes and WREN, while West Oxfordshire District Council has an application in with the MoD’s Community Covenant Grant scheme.
Both councils hope to find out the result of their applications next month.