It’s a “Knock Out” for children from Colchester Garrison and beyond

Essex Freemasons donated £15,000 to the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity to support “Operation Camouflage”

In support of the Armed Forces Covenant, Essex Freemasons donated £15,000 to the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which in turn was given to the Army Welfare Service (AWS) to facilitate “Operation Camouflage” and combining this with local authority Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) funding this tremendous event was able to happen.

“Operation Camouflage” took place over a 12-day period between 25th July and 17th August 2023 with around 750 children between the ages of 8 and 16 participating in activities at Rock Barracks, Woodbridge. All participants were children from Colchester Garrison military families or from the wider community within the Suffolk area.  

East Suffolk Council and Army Welfare Service have been delivering “Operation Camouflage” since 2008, with the programme aimed to give young people an opportunity to be active over the summer holidays by providing a welcoming, safe, supportive, and inclusive environment for them to experience and develop new skills. The range of activities included football, mini golf, arts and craft, cycling, bushcraft, first aid, dance, archery and Geocaching.

On the final day we were invited to come and experience some of the activities in a series of “It’s a Knockout” challenges, which included water-based obstacle races and a giant slide which the children and the adults thoroughly enjoyed. At the end we were able to speak with some of the participants who have enjoyed the range of activities over the summer and really hear the impact of these vital projects within the military and civilian communities.

Chris Hicks (Provincial Charity Steward, Essex Freemasons) said, “Supporting the ABF is a key part our support for the Military under the Military Covenant signed by the Provincial Grand Master in March 2022. Essex Freemasons are proud of the support we give to Military Families.”

“The activities at Woodbridge, and on other sites, are vital for the support given to families under the AWS, to mitigate the impact of service life. Whilst providing on the surface holiday fun, such activities are essential to build positive relationships with young people to ensure where appropriate ongoing support can be identified or simply foster community cohesion, whilst young people experience new challenges, build confidence, and have fun!”, said Emma Plews (ACDO East – SEO, AWS)

“The generous donation from Essex Freemasons to the ABF has enable us to support Operation Camouflage again this year and to cement it in the calendar”, said Simon Ferrier (Briefing & Liaison Officer, London and East Anglia – ABF)

The Soldiers’ Charity

The Army Welfare Service (AWS)


Top Left: ABF Day 1 – participants having a BBQ for lunch

Top Centre: ABF Day 2 – participants enjoying a BBQ lunch

Top Right: ABF Day 3 – Simon Ferrier (ABF) and Chris Hicks (Essex Freemasons)

Middle Left: ABF Day 4 – Chris Hicks (Essex Freemasons) helping in a team race

Middle Centre Left: ABF Day 5 – Chris Hicks (Essex Freemasons) and Simon Ferrier (ABF) ready for the activities

Middle Centre Right: ABF Day 6 – Simon Ferrier (ABF) winning the horizontal water slide race

Middle Right: ABF Day 7 – Chris Hicks (Essex Freemasons) winning the vertical water slid race

Bottom: ABF Day 8 – Participants receiving their Certificates and Prizes