“My dad died by suicide when I was 5 years old. This is how my life has changed.”
On the 23rd of April 2014, five-year-old Ruth Watson’s life changed forever when her dad, Mus John Watson, died by suicide. He was 43 years old.
Ruth, who is now 14, remembers her dad fondly: “Name any instrument, and dad could probably play it. He became a musician and medic in the Royal Engineers straight out of school, which he loved, but had to be discharged after three years because he broke his back on a training exercise. He later became a conductor at Keele University, which sounds serious, but I always remember him as a bit of a jokester, having fun and doing lots of silly things with us. We’d have food experiments in the garden, where we threw together all kinds of weird stuff. He was always such a chill, relaxed person.”
Ruth and her siblings, Heather and Tobias, who were eight and four when their dad died, joined Scotty’s Little Soldiers in 2022. Since joining the charity, which provides support to bereaved military children and young people, they’ve felt part of a supportive community of young people built around helping every member feel less alone.
“Scotty’s is like having another friend to rely on.”
“Before joining Scotty’s, I didn’t realise there were so many people in a similar situation to our family. It could feel quite isolating, but now some of my closest friends are Scotty Members who I can chat to about stuff, and Mum has connected to a bunch of parents who are in the same boat. Just having that connection is really comforting and makes me feel a lot more secure.”
Ruth and her family first found out about Scotty’s at FAB Camp, an activity break for bereaved military families – the event is supported by Scotty’s Little Soldiers who provide FAB with specialist bereavement support. John died after service, but the military remained an important part of his identity, and Ruth is enjoying discovering this part of his life. This newfound connection fosters a sense of belonging and can assist bereaved military children in their healing process, as they navigate their own journey of grief.
“Scotty’s is like having another friend to rely on. If you need a certain type of help, or you want to talk to someone outside of the family or who you don’t see every day, they’re always there. For me, I’ve also learnt a lot more about the Armed Forces since joining Scotty’s, which I find super interesting. Learning more about the military side of his life and acknowledging it is really important to us.”
Connecting with people who ‘get it’
Since joining Scotty’s, Ruth has done things she would never have otherwise been able to do, and even made some unexpected connections along the way.
“My drama teacher’s dad was serving in the Armed Forces when he died, so I talk to her quite often as we obviously have some stuff in common. One day I mentioned I was part of Scotty’s and her eyes widened and she started talking about how much she admires the charity and that she’d even fundraised for it. It’s made me feel like she understands me better and I really like telling her about all the stuff we do with Scotty’s.”
One event Ruth couldn’t wait to tell her teacher about was her lunch at 10 Downing Street to commemorate Armed Forces Day. There, she had the chance to meet and connect with more bereaved military children just like her, spend time with influential figures like the Prime Minister’s wife, Akshata Murty, and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer MP, as well as share how big an impact Scotty’s has had on her life since joining in 2022.
“We just connected instantly with other members there and even ended up going out for tea together later in the day. We also got to have a little look around 10 Downing St on our way to the garden, and then we met loads of veterans and service personal, and I had a really nice time with the Prime Minister’s wife and told her all about Scotty’s and everything it’s done for us.”
“Helping the charity that helps us.”
Heather isn’t the only sporty person in the family. Ruth loves cheerleading and, as a Scotty Member, is now entitled to the Scotty Allowance – a grant available to all members every year to contribute towards to cost of fun, confidence-boosting, extra-curricular activities.
Ruth also recently took part in Scotty’s May Marathon, in which she walked, jogged and ran 26.2 miles over the course of May to raise funds for Scotty’s. For Ruth, it was a way of giving something back and supporting bereaved military children and young people just like her.
“The May Marathon was really good. It kept me motivated, and if I hadn’t had a good day for whatever reason, it was a case of ‘right, let’s go out, get jogging, enjoy the surroundings and take our mind off it.’ It was a good mood-booster, especially knowing we were helping the charity that helps us. I managed 7K on one run!”
Scotty’s ‘comforting’ community
In addition to having access to a number of educational and development grants, as well as the option to access one-to-one bereavement support, Ruth is soon to go on her first Scotty’s Break at one of our lodges. During this time, she and her family will have the priceless opportunity to remember and reflect on their time spent with John while making new happy memories together. It’s these tailored chances to reflect on her father’s life and meet other bereaved military children who get what she’s been through, understand her struggles, and remind her she’s not alone that set her time as a Scotty Member apart from her life before.
“It’s comforting to know there's someone there that we can turn to if we need anything. Scotty’s are always there, they're so easy to communicate with and they’ve been able to support us with everything we’ve needed – not just for me, but for my brother and sister as well.”
Supporting bereaved military children
Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a charity dedicated to supporting children and young people (0 to 25 years) who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces.
Inspired by the experience of Army widow Nikki Scott, following the death of her husband Corporal Lee Scott in Afghanistan in 2009, the charity, which was set up in 2010, provides support and guidance to hundreds of bereaved military children and young people throughout their childhood.
Services offered to Scotty’s members include access to child bereavement support, guidance to parents and carers, personal education and learning assistance (including grants), and fun activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events. These are all designed to remind the children and young people supported by Scotty’s that they are not alone.
If you know a child or young person who has experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, they could be eligible for specialist bereavement support from Scotty's Little Soldiers. Hundreds of bereaved military children aren’t getting the support they need but we are here to help.
If you are the parent or carer of a bereaved military child or young person, click here.
If you work with bereaved children & young people, click here.
If you are a bereaved young person seeking support, click here.