Pauline Milnes was just 17 when she joined the British Army in 1970 – amid the Cold War. During her time in the military, she worked in the UK and at NATO headquarters in, what was then, West Germany. After four years, Pauline went on to have a family and build a long corporate career. Here we explore how the military has been intrinsic to her life.
To this day, Pauline remains closely connected to the military.
One of her projects is the National Caribbean Monument Charity, which she co-founded to raise money for a monument dedicated to the service people from the Caribbean.
Cold War Threats
Joining the military during very different times, when Europe was split politically following World War II, Pauline and her colleagues from the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC)needed to be ceaselessly diligent of possible espionage by Britain’s Cold War enemies, and attacks by the IRA.
After four years, Pauline left the Armed Forces and returned to civilian life.
She went on to bring up three children and has built a 40-year career with global construction and engineering firm, Bechtel.
Currently working on London Crossrail as a document controller, ensuring that operatives are working with the most recent plans, Pauline has a unique insight into this historical infrastructure project.
Alongside work, she has immersed herself in causes that are very close to her heart.
Special Place Of Remembrance
In 2015, Pauline co-founded the National Caribbean Monument Charity after visiting the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire – Britain’s year-round site of Remembrance that recognises and honours the fallen, their service and sacrifice.
While there, Pauline was deeply saddened to find there was no monument dedicated to the people of the Caribbean, who have served in the British Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy for centuries.
Knowing about their long history of sacrifices for and contributions to Britain, Pauline was compelled to give these heroes the respect and recognition they deserve.
In the Second World War, 16,000 Caribbean volunteers served with the British Armed Forces.
More than 230 volunteers died or were reported missing, and 265 were injured. What’s more, many Caribbean servicemen made their way to Britain using their own money to fight in the First World War. Pauline said:
“Every relevant nation is represented at the National Memorial Arboretum, but I have no idea why a monument hasn’t already been installed for the 18 British Caribbean islands, whose men and women gave their military service to Britain in wars and conflicts. And they continue to serve the country today.
“I believe that these brave people, of all ethnicities, should have the recognition they deserve by providing a glorious monument that reflects their unfailing commitment and sacrifices.”
So far, Pauline’s charity has raised enough money to pay for the plot at the Arboretum and for the early design of the monument itself, which is being created by renown sculptor Martin Jennings. The Charity aims to install the new monument in autumn 2021.
Shaping A Legacy
The charity is only part of Pauline’s mission. She says:
“We want to educate the younger generations, to help them build a sense of belonging and worth, and to develop knowledge of the achievements of their forefathers.
"Currently, children are taught very little about the contribution of military people from the Caribbean, so it’s our aim to inform them, and give them an insight into how other nations have supported Britain.”
In addition, Pauline is a loyal and active WRAC Association member.
Pauline's support led her to be chosen for a portrait, which was painted for an exhibition at the National Army Museum celebrating WRAC’s 70th anniversary and women’s contributions to the British Army. She remembers it as:
“An amazing experience."
Pauline doesn’t plan to slow down when she finishes work at the end of the Crossrail project, instead she plans to invest even more energy into her charitable work.
To donate to the National Caribbean Monument Charity, go to www.tncmc.org
This story is part of 'Life After Service' - a week-long campaign of positive stories about ex-servicemen and women which will be running every day across all the BFBS media channels.