What became of the wives who wowed Britain? Here they share their tales of love, loss and friendship

New film Military Wives, starring Dame Kristin Scott Thomas, is based on the inspirational choir of the same name. 

The phenomenon bloomed into the Military Wives Choirs, a charity which supports 2,300 women from the military community in 76 choirs across the UK and abroad. 

Here, nine original members tell JILL FOSTER how they found their voices…

WE WERE FILMED AT OUR MOST VULNERABLE

Nicky Scott, 51, a teaching assistant and former sergeant in the Army, lives in Barnstaple, Devon, with husband George, 52, a Royal Engineer, and their daughters Ginny, 18 and Isla, 16.

From left to right: Angela Fyffe, Larraine Smith, Lucy, Sharon Bristow and Sam Graham tell their stories of why they joined the Military Wives Choir

From left to right: Dame Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan and Gareth Malone pose with members of The Military Wives Choir at the UK Premiere of Military Wives at at The Cineworld Leicester Square on February 24, 2020

From left to right: Dame Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan and Gareth Malone pose with members of The Military Wives Choir at the UK Premiere of Military Wives at at The Cineworld Leicester Square on February 24, 2020

Whenever your loved one is deployed, you wonder whether you’ll ever see them again. 

In 2010, George’s regiment had just been sent to Afghanistan and it was a tough tour with several fatalities and serious injuries.

When I heard a choir was being set up, I leapt at the chance to join.

The TV cameras filmed us when we were scared, anxious and vulnerable but the crews were so sensitive. It was not always the women crying but the camera crews as well. One of my highlights was singing for the Queen at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s house in 2012. It was crazy. She was just sitting there on the sofa listening to us and smiling.

Another poignant moment was performing on Slapton Sands in 2015, where nearly 1,000 American Troops were killed in Operation Tiger, one of the rehearsals for D-Day. Many of the widows were there and the moment we started singing We’ll Meet Again, there wasn’t a dry eye. Ten years on, I still get so much strength from the choir.

Pictured left to right: Julia Millen, Nicky Scott, Beth Trantham and Mechelle Sellers

Pictured left to right: Julia Millen, Nicky Scott, Beth Trantham and Mechelle Sellers

Nicky Scott, 51, a teaching assistant and former sergeant in the Army, lives in Barnstaple, Devon, with husband George, 52, a Royal Engineer, and their daughters Ginny, 18 and Isla, 16

Nicky Scott, 51, a teaching assistant and former sergeant in the Army, lives in Barnstaple, Devon, with husband George, 52, a Royal Engineer, and their daughters Ginny, 18 and Isla, 16

IT GAVE ME THE SUPPORT I NEEDED

Larraine Smith, 56, choir lead of Plymouth Military Wives Choir, is married to Brandon, 59, who completed a career in the Army and now serves in the Royal Artillery Reserves. They have four daughters and four grandchildren.

the choir has given me so much friendship that was hardly there before.

Years ago, when I lived in Germany, I had a four-month-old baby and all the women were in their own cliques at coffee mornings. I felt uncomfortable and very lonely.

Larraine Smith, 56, choir lead of Plymouth Military Wives Choir, is married to Brandon, 59, who completed a career in the Army and now serves in the Royal Artillery Reserves. They have four daughters and four grandchildren.

Larraine Smith, 56, choir lead of Plymouth Military Wives Choir, is married to Brandon, 59, who completed a career in the Army and now serves in the Royal Artillery Reserves. They have four daughters and four grandchildren.

But years later, when I joined the choir it gave me a feeling of belonging.

I’ve lost several very close family members over the past decade and I’ve been hundreds of miles away from them, feeling completely useless. Getting a hug from someone at choir has really helped.

One of my personal highlights was becoming involved with a charity for homeless veterans. We sang Christmas carols for them and donated gift bags. It’s been incredibly rewarding.

JOINING CHOIR CHANGED MY LIFE

Mechelle Sellers, 52, is a teaching assistant and mother of three aged 19, 18 and 14. Now separated from her partner, who serves in the Royal Marines, she lives in Plymouth.

When friends told me about the choir, I said: ‘No, it’s not my cup of tea.’ I’d never heard of Gareth Malone and I didn’t sing but they persuaded me to go and I’m so glad I did. It changed my life.

Within three weeks, we were all going through a pretty scary time. Our loved ones were on tour in Afghanistan and were being hit quite badly.

Mechelle Sellers, 52, is a teaching assistant and mother of three aged 19, 18 and 14. Now separated from her partner, who serves in the Royal Marines, she lives in Plymouth

Mechelle Sellers, 52, is a teaching assistant and mother of three aged 19, 18 and 14. Now separated from her partner, who serves in the Royal Marines, she lives in Plymouth

Friends lost husbands and we were all nervous about the knock on the door.

After we performed at the Royal Albert Hall, an elderly lady grabbed my hand and said: ‘I’m so proud of you girls, you’ve given us all a voice.’ I started crying and we had a hug. We’ve been to 10 Downing Street to sing for the Prime Minister, we sang at Twickenham and have appeared on This Morning.

It felt surreal sometimes, singing for thousands at the O2, then coming home exhausted to cook meals and help with homework.

My partner and I split three years ago but he still lives nearby. The fact I’m no longer with him doesn’t mean I can’t be involved.

The choirs have now expanded to help mothers, sisters and ex-partners of military personnel.

I’VE MISSED TWO OF 120 CONCERTS

Angela Fyffe, 53, lives in Catterick with husband Mark, 50, who served in the Scots Guards and the Military Provost Guard Service (MPGS).

When I joined our little choir of 12 other women in April 2010, I never imagined it would grow into such a phenomenon — or indeed that a film would be made.

I’ve met some wonderful ladies and performed at the Royal Albert Hall and Abbey Road. I’ve only ever missed two of 120 concerts and I rarely miss a rehearsal.

Army life can be stressful. I had some issues with one of my sons but there was always someone at choir who offered me a shoulder to cry on.

Singing helps with emotional trauma. We have doctors and nurses who say it brings them a sense of relief after work.

I’m one of only three original members left in the Catterick choir. It must be intimidating joining such an established group but we’re always very welcoming.

MUM ENCOURAGED ME TO JOIN IN

Sharon Bristow, 44, co-founder of the Military Wives Choirs charity, lives in North Devon with husband Eric, 55, a Royal Marine. They have two children, William, 13, and Isabelle, nine.

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