Lawrence "Ash" Ashbridge
Lawrence "Ash" Ashbridge spent 30 years in the Army before taking voluntary redundancy in 2012 and embarking on a second career as an Operations Director. He has volunteered with SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, since 2015.
Initially Ash took on the role of caseworker with SSAFA's Winchester Division before also taking on the role of Hampshire Branch Publicity Officer. On top of all that, he is a Lt Col in the Army Reserves and dad to 5-year-old twin boys.
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Ash joined the Army aged 16 and rose through the ranks to Major in the Royal Tank Regiment. He served in operational theatres including Northern Ireland, UN Cyprus, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the MBE in 1998. After breaking his back falling from a horse in 2011 Ash had to learn to walk again and later decided to take voluntary redundancy.
Now an operations director, he joined the Army Reserve in 2015 and is currently a Lt Col in the Royal Wessex Yeomanry working with the Army in the South West. He said: “I’m lucky enough to have a job which gives me a bit of flexibility, so I decided to volunteer for SSAFA. My reason for volunteering was I wanted to give something back and help in some way if I could.”
Ash has been a volunteer caseworker with SSAFA’s Winchester Division since 2015 and took on the role of Hampshire Branch Publicity Officer in 2016.
"Knowing that you have helped someone through whatever difficult situation they have found themselves in is very rewarding," says Ash. "I have found that case-working also really helps me with raising awareness of the organisation in my role as Publicity Officer, because you are very aware of the relevant issues."
Ash has been working on improving SSAFA Hampshire's connections with the community and also looks after the Branch’s social media and local website pages. "Over the Christmas holidays I connected with lots of community Facebook sites in Hampshire projecting the SSAFA message and raising awareness of our volunteer work. We need to adapt with the times and I have enjoyed trying out new ideas and seeing what works."
Ash has also been able to turn his hand to fundraising, working with business contacts and fellow volunteers to generate income for SSAFA. Last summer he ran the SSAFA stand at the Heroes of Highclere event organised by the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. It was in the build-up to the event that Ash made an exciting discovery. "I was digging through SSAFA’s WW1 online archives and I found out that the 5th Earl of Carnarvon was actually a life member of SSAFA. When his staff went away to war he continued to pay their wives and families their wages, which was very unusual." Ash helps maintain the historic link with the current Earl of Carnarvon, who continues to support SSAFA as the Vice President of Hampshire Branch.