I have pledged to walk no less than 2,500 miles for SSAFA - 6.85 miles a day - in a year after a volunteer from SSAFA’s Somerset branch helped me to uncover the dramatic story of my birth father, a former soldier. As I was adopted as a baby, it has been an emotional journey.
I became aware in my early 50's that if I wanted the opportunity of a relationship with my father I needed to act. I had put off searching because it is obviously a difficult thing to do but the need to know wouldn’t go away.
Starting with my birth certificate I was able to track my father, Corporal Nick White, as far as the Royal Sussex Regiment in the early 1960's. I knew when he was born and that he was one of several siblings but I had done a lot of digging around and was struggling to find anything more. In the end I posted on the regiment’s message board and I learnt that my father had moved to Northern Ireland to marry after leaving the Army but was shot and killed at the age of 31. He had seen a lot during the Troubles and was disturbed by the environment young people were growing up in. He was running a disco for both Catholic and Protestant teenagers at a community project in the Ardoyne area of Belfast which had won a peace award in 1975 for the successful work they were doing, but because of his efforts to try and unite young people he was shot by the IRA.
I was assisted in my detective work by SSAFA volunteer Simon Yates after meeting him at a SSAFA Somerset event last year. Simon was so good. It took him a lot of time and perseverance to chase up the information but he was able to help me fill in the gaps and to confirm that the information I had found was correct. Simon had also served in the Army and was able to put the new information into context for me.
As a result, I have now met members of my father’s family and gained some insight into what he was like as a person. I inherited his height and his eye colour – his passion for stock car racing – and I am also a former social worker so I have tremendous respect for what he was trying to do in Northern Ireland.
My daily walks – monitored by a Fitbit - are raising money and awareness for SSAFA Somerset, to enable them to continue to help others in the way they have helped me.