The Military Champion helping Sheffield’s veterans

He’s one of Sheffield’s longest-standing councillors but has a little-known role.

By Lucy Ashton, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 26 June, 2019, 13:30
Coun Tony Damms, Sheffield Council's military champion. Picture Scott Merrylees

Coun Tony Damms has been the council’s Military Champion for the last three years, working with veterans and armed forces organisations in the region.

Tony has been a councillor for 37 years – in 1989 he served as Lord Mayor and, at the time, was the city’s youngest-ever at the age of 40.

“My main role is as chairman of the Sheffield Community Covenant Partnership Board, which has been signed by a range of organisations,” he explained.

“It recognises the enormous contribution made by those who have served in the forces. It meets three times a year but I’m looking to see if this is often enough.”

Over the last two years, the Ministry of Defence has given funding to the four South Yorkshire authorities for a project aimed at getting a better understanding of the needs of the armed forces community.

Tony says he hasn’t publicised his military role as he feels it’s a joint effort with fellow councillors.

“Coun Terry Fox did a lot of work to get the tree planted in Weston Park for the Normandy veterans and Coun Anne Murphy led the campaign on HMS Sheffield and its flag.

“The next big thing will be the VE Day celebrations next year, I don’t know what we are doing yet but we will have something planned.”

He’s on the Reserved Forces and Cadets Association for South Yorkshire and as an 18-year-old was in the Reserved Forces in the 106 Field Squadron. “I really enjoyed it because it was an adventure every weekend. I went to a camp in Weymouth and built floating ferries.”

He’s well aware though that many young men lived through horrendous conflicts. “Our Normandy veterans are very frail but nothing is going to stop them at these events of remembrance,” he said.

“You wonder where they got the courage from on those beaches. One said his best friend never even got off the boat, he was cut down coming from the ramp.

“Sheffield Pals would have been joiners and steelworkers and were aged just 18 and 19. One family would have seen the father, sons and uncles all wiped out in one action.

“Films don’t show what happened, they don’t show the real horror, so it’s important that we remember their sacrifice.”