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Our Armed Forces have given their all to the country – and today gives us the chance to show our support and recognise the contributions of the Forces community to M&S.

We want to play our part by being a Forces friendly employer. This week, we celebrated signing the new military covenant, reaffirming our commitment to support the Forces community since signing in 2005, and we’re proud to say – have been awarded silver status. 

We were joined at the signing ceremony in Castle Donington by Air Cdre Gavin Hellard from the Ministry of Defence, as well as representatives from the Royal British Legion, our Veterans Network, with a special message from Army veteran and Paralympian Stuart Robinson MBE and performance from The Voices of Armed Forces Children Choir.

Our commitment at M&S to the Armed Forces is a longstanding one. 

In World War One, Simon Marks, our then Chairman, was conscripted into military service, and in 1938, helped to found the Air Defence Cadets Corps. During the Second World War, M&S colleagues knitted hundreds of garments for evacuees and the Armed Forces, as well as raising £5,000 to help build the ‘Marksman’ Spitfire.

More than 1,500 M&S colleagues served in the Armed Forces in the conflict – with 97 colleagues sadly losing their lives. We commemorate them on our Roll of Honour, kept at our Waterside Support Centre.

Since 2009, we have been working with the Royal British Legion (RBL), who provide lifelong support to serving and ex-serving personnel and their families, helping to raise £9.3 million. The RBL is one of our Sparks chosen charities, meaning if a customer selects them we donate every time they shop with us. We were also privileged to sponsor the celebrations of the RAF’s Centenary in 2018.

Fast forward to today and we’re proud to have over 1,000 M&S colleagues from the Forces community. As co-sponsors of our active Veterans colleague network, both of us work closely with the network’s co-chairs to create a safe space for members, alongside awareness raising and fundraising. 

We also have a number of policies and partnerships in place to provide additional support, including offering ten days extra leave for reservists to attend training, providing tailored and confidential wellbeing guidance, spanning mental and physical health to financial support. 

We recognise that transitioning to civilian life can be a challenging time so work with the Careers Transition Partnership and Forces Family Jobs to drive recruitment. Veterans, reservists and serving personnel have unique qualities and skills and we want to make joining the M&S family as smooth a transition as possible.

To help mark Armed Forces Day, we wanted to share the stories and experiences of three of our fantastic colleagues from the Forces community:

Isabella Baldwin, Alumni Community Manager at M&S

“I’m a platoon commander at G Company, 7 RIFLES, currently officer commanding of the Mortar Platoon. I joined the Australian Army Reserves and commissioned as an infantry officer in 2018. Later that year I moved to the UK and secured an exchange position with the British Army Reserves. In fact, I arrived before Women in Ground Close Combat (WGCC) was passed – this was the regulation that allowed women to serve in front-line combat roles. So I’m actually the first female to do the job in the British Army. I joined M&S in October 2021. A key part of my decision to join was the fact that M&S supports colleagues who serve in the Armed Forces and even allow additional leave so you can meet your annual Reserve training commitments. It can be really tough explaining to your colleagues that the leave you’re taking isn’t for a holiday – you’re actually getting thrashed for two weeks. But M&S really gets it and my boss is the most supportive I’ve ever had with respect to my service.”

Ryan McNally, M&S Gosforth Store Manager

“From a young age, I always wanted to join the Forces and follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. When I turned 16 I left my home in the North East to join the Junior Leaders regiment in Dorset. Following training, I joined the Royal Logistics Corps, serving for six years all over the UK. After leaving the Armed Forces, I got offered an initial contract from M&S and have now been here for 25 years working my way up through the ranks to Store Manager. I’m a proud member of the Veteran’s Network and love all the work M&S do to support the community.” 

Neil Clancy, Store Operations and Fire, Health and Safety Officer at M&S Milngavie

“At 16 I joined the Royal Highland Fusiliers, completing a tour in Northern Ireland and visiting Canada and Germany while serving. Six years later, I left the forces and married my wife Janice, who also works in the Milngavie store! I heard about the Veterans Network in 2021 and immediately wanted to get involved – it’s a safe space to chat and connect with others with similar backgrounds. We all feel happy that M&S recognises where we started our careers, the experience it has given us, and we’re proud to work for a company that supports us.”

Find out more about the Armed Forces Covenant here.