MAY THE FORCES BE WITH YOU

May 4th, a day I have been waiting for for nearly a year. Today means that I get to go to Twickenham and hang out with 80,000 or so rugby loving military friends and family, while doing a job I love. What could be better?

I meet the rest of the official Army vs Navy photography team, put together by Geraint of Alligin Photography in a secret location near to the Home of Rugby. We are given our parking allocations and accreditation for the match. My mission today is to capture the atmosphere and emotion of the event, and it is one that I take with utmost dedication. I also have to track down and take pictures of both Fleur East and Ross Kemp, the latter of which has been known to take on a disguise or two in the past. I can only hope that they will be willing to be photographed once I do find them.

In all seriousness though, it is a day I love. Not only because some of my friends have played for the Army team in this match on previous years but because the forces have always been in my life in some shape or form. The job that the military do is so unique it is hard not to admire and respect what they do. So when you get that combined with I sport I adore and a stadium filled with those still serving, veterans, and their loved ones it is something truly special. The warmth in this venue on this day is like no other.

I park up in Cardinal Vaughan car park which is beginning to fill with forces family and their picnic blankets. I make my way to the entrance, get frisked and just as every time I go anywhere with my camera gear, a steward comments on how heavy my bag looks and that I am a pro at carrying it.

Next stop is the Photographer’s Room where I see some new and familiar faces within both the staff and agency photographers. We are all given a briefing, bibs and there is even a few sandwiches and some tea & coffee. I get my gear ready and head out, and take a walk around the stadium to breath in the pre-match atmosphere. It is about an hour and a half before kick off so I take this time to check my settings and get myself into the right frame of mind.

With an hour to go the entertainment starts. And I click into motion. Fleur East is a boss. As she waits to go out and sing the national anthem she is stood directly behind me, and as I kneel at her feet she begins her vocal warm up. I try my best not to be intrusive but can see a moment, and I capture it. Sometimes I know when I have taken an image I am excited by and other times I find it in editing.

The next three hours is awesome. I chat with people in the crowd. I have one eye on the game to make sure I am not struck by a flying ball or player. And because of where I am positioned I have conversations with those who have experienced life changing injuries while serving. But these aren’t my stories to share. Maybe in the future.

I have tracked down Ross Kemp and he managed a wry smile. At half time he spoke with two veterans for Combat Stress, a mental health charity. Both told their stories to the stadium and it was hard not to be emotional. https://www.combatstress.org.uk

I have had hugs from Darrell Ball (former Army captain working for Sky Sports today) and Vee Veikune (who is on the bench but not in the Army team for this match). Both of these played for my local rugby club when I was a photographer there.

When the game ends, Army 27 – Royal Navy 11, the celebrations and commiserations begin. When the players return to their changing rooms I head out to the public milling around. I track down some Star Wars inspired fancy dress and make my way round to where the teams are exiting to capture more hugs and handshakes. It was there that I find the Chelsea Pensioners who are a pure delight to be around. All smiles and it is a great end to my day.

Galleries from the whole Alligin Photography team for that day can be found at: Interservices Rugby

 

 

 

 

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