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A unique exhibition revealing a rare insight into the world of the modern Army spouse

‘Not Just a Wife’ recounts the lives of 50 Army Spouses their personal struggles with loss of career, depression and anxiety, loneliness, packing up your house every 2 years, separation along with the joys of reunion, the strengths of character and new found skills.

The women and 2 men reveal what it is like to be part of this community.  Little is truly known about their relationships not only with family and friends but also the Army and the effect it has on them as individuals.

It is the first exhibition of its kind allowing the public to reflect on what it is to be a part of the military community that is so often overlooked as the media focuses on the serving soldier or the events to which the Army is asked to respond.

“I wanted to celebrate a key date in my life by reflecting on 50 spouses I have encountered since becoming an Army Wife”, said Wendy who served in the Regular Army as the first woman in the Royal Artillery to command a troop of Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and now continues her service as a Reservist, “I answered the question ‘what do you do?’ with ‘I’m just a wife’ and I was so cross with myself.

“I have commendations for my work as a Reservist; I served in the Balkans in 1995; I continued to work as a Reservist while my husband was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan over a 10 year period while bringing up our 4 children, most of the time as a solo parent and I started to think that if I had done this then what had others done.”

A forensic scientist who was one of the first on the scene at Dunblane; a criminologist; Oxford graduates; psychologists; nurses; doctors; physiotherapists; graphic designers; accountants and so the list of professions expands – most of them have forfeited their careers for their serving soldier.

Each of these modern spouses was a professional in their own right. They gave up their professions to support their serving soldier and their career – ‘the needs of the service’.

“I did not ‘cherry-pick’ the best stories. Those who volunteered were interviewed”, said Wendy who has self-funded this project in order to get the message out, “I believe that everybody has a story to tell but I was not expecting these stories. I have interviewed soldiers returning from war zones, families who have lost loved ones and thought I had heard some of the most impressive acts of bravery and courage – until I started this project.”

Those who have seen the exhibition have been touched by the huge sense of community, ‘patriotic commitment’ along with many other qualities expected from the serving spouse: selfless commitment, integrity, discipline, moral and physical courage and above all loyalty to an organisation that they did not sign up to and a commitment to the community to which they will forever belong.

  • 10-25 August Edinburgh Fringe. This exhibition will be shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of Army@theFringe 10-25 August.
  • 3-6 September at the Scottish Parliament.

‘Just a Wife’ – RUSI Photo Exhibition. Justine Beeley. Receptionist Doctor’s Practice. Photographed at home in Corsham. Wilts.