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Every so often, we were sent up to Newcastle, a hill station in the Blue Mountains.

The steep road, with its hairpin bends, ended in the square formed by the church, the school, the orderly room and the NAAFI.

And when abroad, the challenge of living in an alien culture may additionally be cushioned by, for instance, the availability of certain familiar British products and foods stocked by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI); medical and dental treatment and care; and, thanks to the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS), British television and radio programmes.

The two images below illustrate the contrasting fortunes of those nineteenth-century army families that, on the one hand, were accorded 'on-the-strength' status and were therefore allowed to accompany their soldier husbands and fathers on overseas postings, and, on the other, were not recognised as being in any way the army's responsibility and were consequently left behind to fend for themselves.

If the civilian aspects of life outside barracks, camps and garrisons (such as the climate, the language or dialect spoken and the currency used) can change with bewildering frequency (often within a matter of months, but more usually within the space of a year or two) the touchstones of army children's immediate environment 'within the wire' typically remain reassuringly constant.

Over the centuries, the ways in which the British Army has catered for the families of its serving soldiers have gradually expanded from being limited to providing accommodation and schooling to supplying spiritual, community, practical and personal support and advice, courtesy of the chaplains, what is today known as the Army Welfare Service (AWS) and affiliated charitable bodies like the SSAFA) Forces Help.

Newcastle Barracks was established on the instigation of Major General William Gomm in Jamaica's Blue Mountains in 1841, mainly because, at around 1,128 metres (3,700 feet) above sea level, its hillside location was considered healthier than that of Kingston, where the British were prone to succumbing to yellow fever. In the account that follows, Mairi outlines the early years of her life as an army child, before recalling in evocative detail the two years that she and her family spent in Jamaica.'My father, Hugh Campbell, from Lochgilphead, Argyll, joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Fort George.

In her autobiography, (1857), Mary Seacole (1805-81), née Mary Jane Grant, the Kingston-born nurse and healer, wrote that by 1843, she had 'gained a reputation as a skilful nurse and doctress, and my house was always full of invalid officers and their wives from Newcastle, or the adjacent Up-Park Camp.' A decade later, Mary's services were in even greater demand, 'for the yellow fever never made a more determined effort to exterminate the English in Jamaica than it did in that dreadful year. He became an instructor and was a good shot, competing at Bisley [Surrey].

At night, you had to get under the mosquito net as quickly as possible and let in as few of the pests as you could.

The photograph below is part of an album of views of Jamaica.

Reproduced courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library, it shows a view of the barracks at Up Park Camp, Kingston, Jamaica. It was a terrible thing to see young people in the youth and bloom of life suddenly stricken down, not in battle with an enemy that threatened their country, but in vain contest with a climate that refused to adopt them.

No longer a barracks, the buildings and surrounding area have been redeveloped (click here for more from Gibraltar’s tourist board.)The illustration below is part of the Yale Center for British Art’s Paul Mellon Collection.

Created by George Lothian Hall, it shows the officers’ quarters and Casemates Barracks in 1843.

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