The First Woman to be made commander at Sandhurst New College Military Academy in its 300-year history. Lieutenant Colonel Lucy Giles celebrates the five women that inspired her to her achievement.
‘She is the constant, stable presence. Whether you do something utterly stupid or totally amazing, she’ll say: ‘don’t worry, I know who you are and I love you unconditionally’.
Mum was a nurse and I remember the first time I saw her resuscitate someone on a bus when were on holiday. She went from being the woman who cooked and cleaned and took care of us, to a calm professional who saved lives and made a difference to the world. Her thoughtfulness and her ability to follow-through inspire me still. If I ever feel myself thinking ‘ugh, I can’t be bothered,’ I make myself follow through because of her. To this day, I always write thank you letters, which I hated doing as a kid!
Karen was a girl at my school – she wasn’t even a close friend really. Aged 10-ish and on school camp she said she was going out for a run and I asked if I could go with her. She was a prize-winning runner and could have easily not wanted me tagging along, but she said ‘yes’. And she took the time, not just to let me run beside her, but to tutor me about effective running; tips I still use to this day.
I’ve never forgotten her generosity. It showed me that gifting a small amount of time freely could make a big difference. I ended up in the army and was still applying the breathing tips she gave me when I was competing within the army athletics team!
Was my music teacher and utterly inspirational. Mrs. Dummett inspired me to teach in unexpected ways in order to get others to engage and encouraged me in a way that made me personally want to do well.
Yes, she was a taskmaster but she was an innovator too. She would take us out of our rural Somerset school to shows in London and she organised and ran all the school concerts. In one class, her lesson was: ‘this is the new Pink Floyd album, and today we are listening to it.’ She taught me that I had facets of self besides those I knew of. My dad was a vet, my mum was a nurse and I was interested in biology, but Mrs. Dummett allowed me to explore my artistic side, which I still love to work with whenever I can.
She taught me that it’s not necessary to march to another’s tune.
Miranda and I met at university in 1987. She taught me, ‘be true to yourself’ and never to compromise my values.
I was the swot and she was one of the cool girls. She had travelled and had loads of life experience…but she never, ever belittled mocked or was cruel to anyone, despite her sophistication. She was unique, driven by curiosity, pragmatic – she’s the sort of woman who could look in an empty larder and whip up a 3-course meal.
When I failed an Army course, she helped me get what I perceived as failure in perspective, with no nonsense. To this day, when I speak to cadets that have ‘failed’ I encourage them – as Miranda did me – to realise all that has been gained as a result. At the end of cadet training, I don’t recite my vignettes of awesomeness, but rather all the times I ostensibly ‘failed’ and what I learnt.
If you are sticking to personal and organisational values with the best will in the world, you are on firm ground – even if things don’t perceivably go ‘right’.
Her Majesty The Queen
She hasn’t sat me down and given me a pep talk, but she doesn’t need to. I have always admired her but it wasn’t until I was given the unique opportunity to serve as her escort that I saw her in action. There were men and women present at that event who had been serving in the army for years, waiting for this moment to meet her and she made it totally worthwhile for all of them.
Smiling, engaged, interested in everybody. She made a difference simply by being there, an amazing quality.
I was awestruck. The Queen is the ultimate icon in terms of duty and ‘serve to lead’ and I take those qualities very seriously. They come at a cost to one’s family – I know that from first-hand experience. So imagine the cost to her. She is in a league of her own.
Interview by Deborah Willimott