Former services personnel and reservists: our secret ingredient

Published 18th May 2021

I was delighted to hear in the Queen’s Speech this week that the government is to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into UK law.  Cohort plc and our UK-based subsidiaries are signatories of the Covenant, which is a pledge to treat active or past members of the armed forces with fairness and respect.  I am very proud that SEA, MASS and Cohort have also been recognised with silver awards under the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme, for actively employing and supporting former services personnel.

The Armed Forces Covenant is the focus of an article that Cohort has contributed to in a special book that marks the 100th anniversary of the Royal British Legion.  The book, called Cooking with Heroes: The Royal British Legion Centenary Cookbook, launches on 18th May and features 100 stories of remarkable service history from across the Commonwealth. Each story is accompanied by a recipe contributed by a selection of VIPs, including military chefs and some well-known faces from the food world. Keen as we were, it turned out that our own culinary contributions did not quite make the grade.

I am certain that the book will be successful in raising funds, helping the Royal British Legion continue to provide vital support to the Armed Forces community, as it has done since it was formed in the aftermath of the First World War.

Why are we such enthusiasts for the Armed Forces Covenant?  Firstly, the recognition that ex-services personnel need to be given an opportunity to be treated equally and find rewarding careers after they have left service.  The transition to civilian life is not easy for many. The Royal British Legion and other veterans’ charities play a pivotal role through welfare support and comradeship.  However, industry too plays an important part in this through providing employment opportunities, with all the accompanying financial and wellbeing benefits.

Secondly, but equally importantly for a business like ours operating in the defence technology sector, ex-service personnel bring a deep understanding of our customers’ needs that is invaluable and cannot be gained in civilian life. Cohort’s key engagement principles – holding innovation at our core, nurturing agile partnerships, and committing to mission-critical effectiveness – are how we always aspire to work with our customers and partners. Those principles would not stand up without the contribution of our ex-services employees. The experiences they bring, whether from front-line service or support roles in the Army, Air Force or Navy, all make a real and tangible difference to our businesses, and ultimately to our customers.

So, what does our commitment look like in practice? Well, rather than hearing it from me, colleagues from two of Cohort’s subsidiaries discussed the role ex-service personnel play within their organisations and these comments feature in the RBL 100 Cookbook article. 

Rob Jones, Business Development Director at MASS, who served in the army for more than 25 years, said: “At MASS we provide a link for people coming out of the Armed Forces, utilising their skill set with our customers, but also as mentors and career guides to young graduates and academics.”

Discussing MASS’s work with former Royal Marines to amplify the message over career transition programmes for serving personnel, Rob commented: “We want that to become a powerful message, not just at the end of a career but during it, so that people can plan ahead. I am still passionate about solving the problems I experienced as a soldier.”

With many ex-service people employed across our businesses, as well as current reservists, employees can make a connection with their military background. Shane Knight, Managing Director of Marlborough Communications Ltd (MCL) and former Royal Signals officer, said it was important for him to join a company where the experience of former services personnel was so valued: “Around a third of our workforce is ex-services, and it helps having other people around you. When you are dealing with military programmes, it is about having those guys that are used to going the extra mile. We also have plenty of non-services people who have brought into that ethos and we learn from each other. It’s about that balance.”

The Cohort Group’s core principles, and the values which underpin our culture, are a mix of many ingredients but the contribution of those who have served in the armed forces is a very special one. I will have this in mind as tackle some of the less demanding recipes in the Cookbook. If you can, please go online to, or visit your local bookstore and buy a copy.


To speak to us about this blog or give us feedback, please contact us.

Contact us