Telephone Buddies: Shielding Veterans And Volunteers Connect During Lockdown

Veterans forced to isolate during the coronavirus pandemic have been finding support through a new service that connects them to 'telephone buddies'.

The Royal British Legion (RBL) initiative matches volunteers with those who are sheltering and connects them over the phone, Zoom, or Skype.

Among the buddies are 99-year-old Ethel Note and 27-year-old Grace Anderton.

Ethel was a nurse based in Staffordshire during the Second World War and Grace, who volunteered through her local RBL branch, is about to start work as a mental health nurse in Birmingham.

Their similar career choices have meant they find one another interesting to speak to.

"She found me one day and I didn't know her," Ethel told Forces News. 

"[Grace] told me what she did and everything and I was quite intrigued, quite interested in talking to her, because - as you know - I was a nurse and she's doing nursing too, and she was telling me all about it."

Ethel Note Former Military Nurse during WW2 070920 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Ethel Note worked as a military nurse during the Second World War.

Ethel added that she and Grace had "quite a chat" that day and have been in touch since.

During the Second World War, Ethel helped treat the first wave of casualties from Dunkirk.

Thanks to the RBL initiative, she has been able to pass on her stories to Grace.

"My all-time favourite [story] is that she fell in love with her husband during an autopsy," Grace said.

"Ethel had been asked if she wanted to attend this autopsy for experience, so she attended the autopsy.

"As the autopsy was going on, there was an air raid, so they had to turn all the lights out and they were doing this autopsy by candlelight and she said their eyes locked."

Grace Anderton RBL telephone buddy volunteer 070920 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Grace Anderton is about to start working as a mental health nurse.

The Royal British Legion said the initiative has been a lifeline for many who are on their own.

"People volunteer to regularly call and befriend somebody who has been affected by COVID and the lockdown," said Gail Walters, assistant director of operations for the Midlands.

"It's a way to support some of the most vulnerable people in our community," she added.