Hero of the month… Corporal Christopher Small 1972 – 2016
Once a year in November the whole world comes together to remember our fallen heroes, however at Scotty’s Little Soldiers we know that for families who have lost someone who served in the Armed Forces, Remembrance Day is every day.
Every one of our members has lost a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, and we believe their lives and sacrifice should always be remembered. In our hero of the month posts we celebrate the lives of our members’ fallen heroes every month of the year.
This month we honour Corporal Christopher Small, a married father to a young son, who took his own life in November 2016 after struggling with life after the Army.
Corporal Chris Small (44) served in the Royal Logistic Corps. He had served in the Army for 21 years when he died. As a military chef Chris served in every conflict zone, enduring gruelling tours of Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and two of Afghanistan, fulfilling one of the most vital roles in keeping the Armed Forces sustained and healthy while on tour.
It was, however, after his tour of Afghanistan in 2012 that everything started to change for Chris, and his mental health started to become affected. After taking voluntary redundancy from the Army, he struggled to adjust to civilian life and sadly took his own life, leaving behind his wife Mandy and son, Jamie, aka J, who was just eight years old.
Almost four years on Mandy can remember vividly the day she received the phone call from her stepbrother, explaining that Chris had committed suicide. Although they were separated at the time, Mandy explains the devastation she felt on hearing the words and thinking how she was going to explain to her young son that he would never see his daddy again.
J was a bright, switched on child, and Mandy knew there was no way to explain what had happened. She decided to tell him the truth, without going into any specific detail. She recalls: “It was horrendous, I saw J’s heart break in front of me, but I didn’t want him growing up thinking that bad men were responsible for killing his dad. I thought it was important he knew the truth.”
Known as “tiny” to his comrades, Mandy describes Chris as a “typical squaddie”, a chef, but a soldier first. He loved football and was a devoted Liverpool FC supporter, a passion he passed on to his son. He loved spending time with his family and friends, which meant their home was constantly awash with BBQs and family gatherings.
Mandy explains it was his cracking sense of humour that made him the man he was, she said: “he could make anyone laugh and although he could be grumpy, he would do anything for you.”
He enjoyed playing on the XBox and having boys’ nights with J which Mandy fondly remembers. She said: “I would regularly be relegated to the bedroom when Chris and J had their boys’ nights.”
His career as an Army chef meant everything to Chris. Described by Mandy as the best chef she had ever met, Chris was hugely proud to serve in the Army, he had a fantastic work ethic and gave his all to his job.
Never one to hold back, some of Chris’ greatest achievements were during his time in the Army, including receiving a commendation whilst at 1 Yorks in Germany, winning a trophy at a catering competition in Germany with his colleagues from Munster, and also passing his catering course at college which made everything possible for him from a young age.
Mandy also recalls a proud moment in 2011 when, while on tour in Afghanistan, Chris delivered an incredible Christmas dinner to his entire regiment.
Looking back, Mandy has some lovely memories of Chris, both as a husband and as a father. One of her fondest memories was how he was able to make her laugh even when she was down. She recalls it was the way he used to look at her, especially when he wanted something. She said: “That was the Chris we knew and loved.”
For Mandy, it’s important J grows up remembering the fun-loving person his dad was and doing what they can to ensure his death wasn’t in vain. Together they raise money in Chris’ name and laugh and cry at memories of him. They spend time looking through old photos and creating a special memory box to help keep Chris’ memory alive.
Mandy met Chris in Basra in 2004. Mandy was serving in the RAF at the time and initially thought their relationship was just going to be a fleeting detachment romance. However, after returning to the UK, the pair spent a lot of time travelling between bases until in 2006 when they decided to get married.
It was two years later, in March 2008, that J came along.
J joined Scotty’s Little Soldiers in 2019 and has quickly become part of the Scotty’s family. For both Mandy and J one of the best things about being a member is the Scotty’s annual Christmas party. Mandy explained how terrified she was going to the first party and not knowing anyone, but soon after arriving felt part of a big family. She said: “everyone was so welcoming and happy to talk about their feelings. It was such a big thing for J and reassured him that he’s not alone.”
As a Scotty’s member J has also received vouchers on poignant days of the year, including Remembrance Day and the anniversary of his dad’s death, plus Christmas gifts.
And it is not just J who has benefited from the Scotty’s network, Mandy has also made friends with other mums in a similar position, knowing she can call on them if she needs them.
She said: “Scotty’s is so important because the children don’t feel alone and neither do the parents. We are now part of a family where the bond will never break and that has made such a huge difference to us.”
Tribute Page: cplchristophersmall.muchloved.com