Meet the new man in charge of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity in Portsmouth

Adrian Bell, who was recently named the new chief executive for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, which is based at Whale Island in Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (210119-6594)
Adrian Bell, who was recently named the new chief executive for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, which is based at Whale Island in Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (210119-6594)
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WE EXIST to support and value every sailor, marine and their families for life.

As the new CEO of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, it is Adrian Bell’s mission to spread and exercise that message as far and wide as possible.

Late father and daughter Andy and Anna Bolam, from Cowplain, who both served in the Royal Navy. Allison Bolam, Anna's mother and Andy's wife, received two Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity bereavement grants following their deaths.

Late father and daughter Andy and Anna Bolam, from Cowplain, who both served in the Royal Navy. Allison Bolam, Anna's mother and Andy's wife, received two Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity bereavement grants following their deaths.

The husband and father-of-two enjoyed 30 years in the Royal Navy before pursuing a career in the charity sector in 2010, at what used to be the Kent Air Ambulance. 

Under him the service became the UK’s first to carry out night flights and operate 24-hours-a-day – opening a window of opportunity to save hundreds more lives every year. 

Now he has returned home to Gosport – by way of Whale Island, for work at RNRMC HQ – and his new role is every bit as crucial.

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Leading hand Johnathon Bulleyment, using the trike which was funded for him thanks to a collaboration between the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and Help For Heroes

Leading hand Johnathon Bulleyment, using the trike which was funded for him thanks to a collaboration between the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and Help For Heroes

While he longer sports a gold braid or defends our nation on the waves, but he has a responsibility to champion a pastoral line of defence for those who do. 

The 56-year-old said: ‘The men and women of the Royal Navy are wonderful and saying goodbye to them was, for me, the saddest thing about deciding to leave.

‘Now the huge reward of this job is to have the ability to affect their lives positively – whether they’re serving or whether they’re veterans.’ 

Since 2007 the RNRMC has lent a steadfast, helping hand to the UK's amphibious troops – offering grants to serving and veteran personnel and distributing millions of pounds annually to charities which care for them, their children and their families. 

Chief petty officer at HMS Collingwood, Andy Gibbs, who has helped to raise more than 40,000 for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity. Here he is with one of the buckets he uses to carry out collections for the cause across the country

Chief petty officer at HMS Collingwood, Andy Gibbs, who has helped to raise more than 40,000 for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity. Here he is with one of the buckets he uses to carry out collections for the cause across the country

It even gives bereavement payouts to people who have lost loved ones in the service. 

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Top of Mr Bell’s agenda as he heads up the good cause is making all troops aware of that work so they know where it is if they ever need it. 

‘I wonder, and I know I'm not the only one by any means, how many people in the navy or the marines really know all our facilities exist?’, he said. 

‘A lot of the navy support us through their own pay roll, almost half, and yet communicating with them and telling them “we’re here and we’re here for you” can be challenging. 

‘We can do more – and that’s part and parcel of the mission I’ve set for myself.’ 

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Among the issues the charity provides support for are injury, isolation, loneliness, addiction, debt and homelessness – but at just 12 years young its output is still growing.

An aspect it is currently aiming to better tackle is relationships, which is vital in a profession where employees can spend as many as 660 days away from home port over three years.

Having spent time in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and later on Gibraltar – as commander of British forces – Mr Bell knows as well as anyone the strain such time away can have. 

‘It’s a huge deal for anyone trying to establish and maintain a relationship – and that can mean with their mum, their dad, their siblings, or a partner,' he said. 

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‘Some people turn to their oppos, some won't say anything at all about their private lives and different people cope with it very differently. 

‘We ran a pilot of relationship counselling sessions just over a year ago and they were hugely successful, so we're now expanding that service to give anyone struggling the props they might need.’ 

Targeting that ongoing need – among others bound to present themselves – will be at the forefront of what Mr Bell has branded his ‘exciting challenge’ as CEO.

’The sort of thing that keeps me awake at night is the need we’re not addressing – the need we’ve missed,' he said. 

‘We can pick people up when they’re down, but wouldn’t it be nice to help them before they got there?

‘I really love a challenge – and I see that as a huge one.’ 

How has the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity helped people already? 

Scores of servicemen and women and their families have benefited from the charity’s efforts since it was established 12 years ago. 

Below are the stories of two people who received support from the good cause in their time of need – as well as one of its fervent fundraisers. 

Waterlooville mother hails ‘amazing’ bereavement grant

WHEN tragedy struck twice, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity was there for Allison Bolam both times.

The 53-year-old's daughter, 28-year-old sub lieutenant and nurse Anna Bolam, died after a car crash in Dorset in 2015 as she headed home for Christmas in Cowplain.

Sadly less than two years later Allison also lost her husband, Andy, a 56-year-old lieutenant commander, following a battle with cancer.

Fulfilling its duty to support servicemen and women and their families, the RNRMC supported Allison with two bereavement grants of about £12,000 when it was alerted to what had happened – which she said were each paid within 24 hours of her loved ones’ deaths.

‘Because I had never been through any of that before, I had no idea that kind of support was available,’ Allison said.

‘It is an amazing thing really and we put the money toward things like flowers and a wake.’

In a bid ‘to say thank you’, Allison raised more than £3,000 for the charity as captain of her Waterlooville golf club in 2016.

Trike funding has changed Bulley’s life 

THANKS to funding from the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines Charity, leading hand Johnathon ‘Bulley’ Bulleyment from Eastney has been given a chance to fight for his naval career. 

The 32-year-old’s life changed dramatically when he was ‘dumped on his neck’ and suffered an horrific injury during a rugby game for his ship HMS Westminster in 2016. 

What he initially thought was a ‘severe dead arm' was eventually diagnosed as a labral tear in in his right shoulder – leaving him with potential damage to the roots of his nerves. Now, he can only raise his arm ‘about 45 degrees’.

But thanks to a collaboration between the RMRNC and Help For Heroes, he is on a mission to rekindle his fitness and his love for road cycling with a customised trike which has been funded for him. 

He said: ‘Having the trike has changed my life massively. I feel happier and it has helped with morale and my mental health – which both took a huge hit when I got injured.’ 

Mr Bulleyment is due for a medical in June, when he will learn if he is medically discharged.

In a bid to give back to the charity, he is in the process of organising a 24-hour trike ride in Southsea. 

Shaking the bucket to the tune of thousands 

MORE than half of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity’s income comes from fundraising — and Andy Gibbs has been described as one the good cause’s ‘most remarkable’ fundraisers of all.

The HMS Collingwood-based chief petty officer has collected a massive £41,923 for the initiative since November, 2017.

Wearing uniform, he and his dedicated team throw caution to the weather and dedicate much of their free time to unite at lucrative venues with collection buckets in-hand.

Having been given the go ahead by Metropolitan Police, his biggest upcoming assignment will see him at Twickenham railway station on Sunday – where rugby fans are expected in their droves as England take on France in the Six Nations.

While the 48-year-old is expecting a bumper collection, much of the job, he says, is about being a face for the charity.

‘It’s not just about raising money, it’s about raising the charity’s profile,’ he said.

‘There are charities out there which are very tri-service based, but the RNRMC does brilliant, specific work.

‘The more people know about it, the more they are likely to donate – and that becomes a benefit for the people who need it.’

In June, Mr Gibbs, known as ‘Gibbo’ to his pals, will take to Wembley Way to fundraise as thousands flock to see the Spice Girls on their reunion tour.