Armed Forces Day Blog 2024

Celebrating Armed Forces Day

Lt Gen (retd) Richard Nugee reflects on Armed Forces Day, and how our mission scar free healing will improve the lives of soldiers and Veterans worldwide.

When I first joined The Scar Free Foundation as Chief Executive, I was unsure whether to use my rank. I retired from the British Army in 2021 and added a small (retd) to my official title. If I wanted, I could have become Mr Nugee: for the first time in my life, after more than 40 years in the Army, I was not a soldier.

But ‘you can take the soldier out of the Army but not...’ I joined the Army when I was 16, and stayed for much longer than I had anticipated as it is the most extraordinary job. You are surrounded by people who want to succeed in life, and who share values and standards that mean they think of others, the team, rather than themselves. Whatever the role, it was the people that made me stay, and as my grandfather, a soldier who fought both WW1 and WW2 said, there is no greater privilege than being with and commanding soldiers.

My last job in the Army was as Chief of Defence People, a role responsible for three and a half million service men, women, families, civil servants in Defence and veterans. That included those who had been wounded, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One crucial point about modern warfare is that fewer soldiers die in conflict than ever before. In World War 1, there was a roughly 50:50 survival rate: so for every one injured soldier, one died. In World War Two, for every three wounded soldiers, one would die. And in the circumstances of Iraq and Afghanistan, thanks to the immense skill of our doctors and momentous improvements in medical care, there was one death for every fifteen wounded soldiers. This is a wonderful achievement. More soldiers survive. More soldiers come home to their families and continue to live happy and productive lives.

But this medical miracle is in some ways, a double-edged sword. Many of these servicemen and women are returning with life-changing injuries – injuries that would have ended their lives only a few decades ago. They need surgery, medicines, physiotherapy, and psychosocial support. And while we are getting better at providing veterans with these treatments, the research underpinning current and future interventions is neglected and not well funded.

That is where The Scar Free Foundation comes in. The Foundation’s determination to advance the treatment and care available to veterans is second to none, and its close relationship with the veteran community is a huge asset.

We are funding innovative medical research into scar free healing, so that we can have a world without scars within a generation. Our programme of research looks at the genetic pathways that cause scarring so we can find ways to slow or stop the scarring process, allowing more perfect and consequence-free healing. We are also investing in studies that test the efficacy of new and existing treatments. And finally, we fund research to learn more about how best to support those with scars to live fulfilling and productive lives.

The Foundation is leading in this field for veterans, having established The Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research in 2018. This is the first centre of its kind specifically addressing the immediate care and long-term physical and psychological impact of scarring from gunshot, blast and burn injuries. We are a member of COBSEO and are proud signatories of the Armed Forces Covenant, and frequently work with other service charities and veterans.

I got involved with The Scar Free Foundation initially to support those soldiers who came back wounded, and who now live with scars. But I’ve come to realise there is so much more impact than just for the wounded from conflict.

When we make scar free healing a reality, we will not just be helping a few thousand wounded soldiers. We won’t even just be helping the 60 million people in the UK. We will potentially be affecting 8+ billion people around the world. This will affect every single human being on the planet.

This Armed Forces Day, we are celebrating every member of the Armed Forces community, from those risking their lives on the front lines to those working tirelessly behind the scenes. The research we fund is for all of you.

Find out more about our connections with the Armed Forces: