Hero of the Month: PTE Sarah Blakemore (1978 – 2020)
PTE Sarah Blakemore was a loving mother, generous wife and outgoing soldier in the Adjutant General Corps.
Sarah served in the Army for four years. While based in Germany, she and her husband welcomed their two children, Tori and Bradley.
On the 22nd of October 2020, Sarah died by suicide. She was 42 years old. Tori and Bradley were just nine and seven.
“She was so generous and would always give people more than she gave herself, would always put other people first,” says Anthony “Blakey” Blakemore, Sarah’s husband. “She was also very outgoing, loud, spontaneous. Very extroverted in general. She loved being around people.”
In her free time, Sarah was extremely active and enjoyed taking on all kinds of physical challenges for charity’s close to her heart.
“She loved being out and about, playing sports and doing lots of stuff for charity. She did Tough Mudders, plane jumps, skydives – all that kind of thing – raising money for mental health and breast cancer research charities. She just loved taking on challenges and testing herself. She also enjoyed making things and doing lots of arts and crafts with the kids. She could take to anything.”
Last month marked what would have been Sarah’s 45th birthday – the third Tori and Bradley have spent without their mum.
“It was Sarah's birthday recently – the 13th of September – and the kids and I always go down the route of watching videos of mummy, cooking food that she liked, doing a bit of arts and crafts, making cards and watching her favourite films. It’s obviously a very difficult day, so the kids like to spend it doing things they find comforting.”
Blakey and the children also enjoy talking about Sarah and sharing their favourite stories.
“I have a million favourite memories of Sarah, and the kids like to talk about the time we went away and did things as family, like going to Legoland.”
Blakey sees Sarah shine through in both the children, from their personalities to the way they look.
“Sarah was the total opposite of me. She has a big family and loved being around people, going to events and speaking to anyone and everyone. The kids are like that as well. They’re both very intelligent kids, too, which they must get from their mum! Tori has big curly hair, just like her mum, and loves her arts and crafts, puzzling, making things. She's very creative, which she gets from Sarah. They’re both quite sporty, too, which they get from both of us.”
Another similarity between the children and their mum is their upbringing. Much like Tori and Bradley, Sarah was also a military child.
“The military had always been important to Sarah. As a child, her father served in the Royal Medical Corps, and as an adult she joined the military herself. Obviously, she then married me, and I was also serving at the time and still am now. It was always a very big part of her life.”
This military connection remains hugely important to Blakey and the children, and something their family wouldn’t be the same without.
“That military connection is really important to all of us. Tori and Bradley were born in Germany, where I was posted in the Rifles, then we came back to England in 2014. Tori was four at the time, and Bradley was just about to turn two. Being military children is all they’ve ever known – they don’t know what life is like without it. When we're playing football on weekends, they sometimes forget that not all the other kids are military as well. They forget not everyone grew up on an Army patch.”
Sarah’s funeral took place on the 12th of November 2020, the day after Remembrance.
“Because of the timing, Remembrance can be a really difficult time for us. It’s a long two-minute silence, and since losing Sarah we’ve never managed to get through the whole thing without one of us crying and having to reassure each other. Despite how difficult we find it, I think it’s a great thing, especially for all the Scotty members who are able to remember their parents together. But yes, it’s a tough two minutes.”
Since joining Scotty’s in 2021, Tori and Bradley have benefitted from Scotty Breaks, grants, our annual Winter Festival and the option to access one-to-one bereavement support. Through these opportunities, they have been able to meet lots of bereaved military children who can understand and relate to what they’ve been through.
“We’ve been on two Scotty breaks. The first was in Blackpool and the second was in Great Yarmouth in one of Scotty’s lodges. Both were absolutely brilliant. The kid’s favourite thing to do is the online workshops with Mark and Charlie, Scotty’s bereavement specialists. They love it – especially Tori. She’s part of Scotty’s Typhoon year group and enjoys everything about it, especially all the bits and bobs she gets sent out in the post.”
More recently, Blakey, Tori and Bradley took part in Scotty’s March and raised almost two and a half thousand pounds for charity that supports them. Both children are very active – Tori does majorettes and Bradley is a keen footballer – which meant they were able to take the challenge in stride while thinking of their mum.
Tori and Bradley have also attended Scotty’s annual Winter Festival every year since they joined. For Blakey, this created an understandable feeling of nervousness:
“To be honest, I was really worried before going to our first Christmas party. I knew there would be lots of widows whose husbands who had died while serving, like Scotty’s founder, Nikki, and I wasn’t sure if I belonged there. I felt on edge. Plus, it was the first time the kids had attended anything like that with other bereaved military children and I wasn’t sure how they’d respond to it.”
Fortunately, he quickly realised he had nothing to worry about.
“It was amazing. The kids immediately settled in, which took a weight off my shoulders, so then I thought I would just find a corner and keep myself to myself until they were done. But all the parents kept coming over to talk to me and everyone was just so welcoming. Instead of sitting on my own I was chatting and meeting new people the entire day.”
“As someone new to being a single parent, doing everything on my own, Scotty’s are priceless. They answered every question I had and are always there if I have any more. Just knowing you’re not the only person in this situation is massive, and really helps me and the kids. Especially around those tougher times of the year.”