Within the Sepro community, today many are remembering family and loved ones who served and continue to serve. In this special interview, Darren Wearmouth, Sepro Project Manager, talks about his 22-year career in the British Army, the challenges faced by veterans and their families, and reflects on the loss and returning to civilian life. Let us never forget the sacrifices made by so many to keep our countries and loved ones safe. Watch the full interview below.

Transcript:

Cheryl Pyper:

Hi, my name is Cheryl Pyper and I’m the Marketing Coordinator for Sepro Systems in Vancouver, Canada. And today I’m going to be speaking with my colleague, Darren Wearmouth. He’s a Project Manager with Sepro Systems at our head office in Langley, BC, Canada. Darren has had a long and successful career in the mining and aggregate industries in Canada for the last 12 years. He’s worked for a couple of companies in the role of Technical Service Manager. And then at Sepro, he’s been a Service Technician, a Purchasing Engineer, Rotary Equipment Manager. And currently, he is a Project Manager. In 2008, Darren, his wife, son, and daughter moved from the UK to the Vancouver area of Canada to start a new chapter after his retirement from the British military, where he finished off his career as an Artificer Sergeant Major in Weapons. Having this military background prompted me to invite him to speak with me today, as Sepro remembers and honours our veterans and war dead. As Canadians are members of the Commonwealth, I believe you, as a UK military personnel will have many insights that are relevant to several employees and customers as we take this day to honour our veterans both alive and deceased. Darren, it is my pleasure to speak with you today.

Darren Wearmouth:

Thank you, pleased to be asked.

Cheryl Pyper:

So just starting off, wondering if you can tell me your role and history at Sepro, along with your history in the mining and aggregate industries.

Darren Wearmouth:

Certainly. I will start with the first job I was employed as in Canada from 2008, which was the Service Manager for Volvo Heavy Equipment in the Lower Mainland. One of the parts of that job is we had Metso equipment on our books and we took over the running of that. Now, I used to have a fleet of service road trucks that I had to take off the road shortly. So I put one on my driveway and we had the Metso decals on the side. And this then brought Mr. Dave Hornick who lived across the road from me at that point, came in and asked why I had the Metso decals on because he just left the job at Metso salesman for us in Canada at that time. And that’s how I got to know Dave and subsequently I came into Sepro and was brought on to look after the larger rotary equipment, which I have been and am doing now and that’s how I came to be here.

Cheryl Pyper:

Okay. And then just as a reference for viewers, Dave Hornick is our Vice President of International Sales. So he was your neighbor for many years.

Darren Wearmouth:

Absolutely. Yes. And odd way that I came into the company, but it’s worked out and I’d say I’m loving it. It’s a job that I feel I’m doing well and I can push the job forward rather than just sitting on one particular task all the time and…yeah, enjoying it.

Cheryl Pyper:

Well, and you recently had a bit of an employment milestone didn’t you?

Darren Wearmouth:

Yes. Just clocked up 10 years in Sepro as last Sunday. .

Cheryl Pyper:

Congratulations.

Darren Wearmouth:

Thank you.

Cheryl Pyper:

Your gold and diamond Rolex watch I’m sure is waiting for you on your desk.

Darren Wearmouth:

Yeah, it’s in the post.

Cheryl Pyper:

Yeah, I know. Okay. So if you can take me back to your younger days, living in the UK, growing up there, why did you decide to enlist? And where did you end up being placed? Like what type, what branch of the military?

Darren Wearmouth:

I decided to enlist because I left school at 16 and I immediately started an apprenticeship at British Rail Engineering as a coach builder, which I did for over five years and became fully qualified with that. But I wanted to travel and get away from the town where I grew up in, in Northern England. So I joined the military, but that being said, my granddad who served in the British Army in the trenches in World War II, unfortunately died later through the gas attacks that were carried out there. My father joined the military, the army is an engineer and served in the Suez Canal Crisis. My brother, my older brother served in the REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) as a vehicle mechanic for 11 years. And then I joined as an armorer or a weapon technician and did 22 years. And so I finished and left the military in 2008.

Cheryl Pyper:

So in the mining and aggregate industry – working within it, you’ve been sent to many an interesting location: some good, some bad. Wherever the job is, I’m sure your military history would rival some of the variety and breadth of locations that you’ve had to work in. Can you share some of your deployment locations and the work that you did there?

Darren Wearmouth:

Yes. The locations were just as exotic, or let’s say perhaps not as exotic, but in the military, you go away for longer periods of time and that can be weeks to months or a year. And served mostly in temperate regions around Northern Europe, Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and that would be Saudi Arabia, Iraq – that area. Also in Canada and a few of the places where we went just for very short periods of training. But when you compare those places to the locations where I go for Sepro, and I have been to many locations for Sepro, and as you pointed out some not so exotic. The general misbelief, I think, is that we stay in five star hotels near a beach and live it up whilst we’re away. But unfortunately that’s not the case. We tend to go where the mine sites are, and that is deserts, mountains, jungles, and it can be lacking in amenities sometimes. And some of my colleagues I’ve traveled with have had quite a few funny trips where you get home from work and there’s no hot water to shower, or sometimes the food is lacking somewhat, clean water sometimes. But on the whole, it’s very, very enjoyable. And I’ve seen some marvelous places around this planet. Currently on 43 countries visited. And I was hoping to make it 50 by the time I turned 50. Unfortunately I’ve never achieved that.

Cheryl Pyper:

Well, sadly there’s not a lot of mining camps in Hawaii or the beaches of France, sadly. Okay. So by the end of your career – your military career – what was your rank and what were some of your reflections before you left the military to join civilian life?

Darren Wearmouth:

Right. When I left the military I – as I mentioned, the 22 years, but I left at the very peak of the rank structure that I could achieve, which was a Warrant Officer Class 1 Artificer Sergeant Major Weapons. Basically we get issued, or if you get selected as a Warrant Officer, you’ll get issued a Royal Warrant from the Queen, and you become a Sir and not a Sergeant – is a basic difference. So I chose to come to Canada with my family. We moved quite quickly and successfully, and we’ve been here 12 years and been very happy. And I think it was the wisest choice I could have made. And we’re looking forward to many more happy years working with Sepro and staying in Canada.

Cheryl Pyper:

Well, that’s kind of leads me to my next question. There’s kind of an interesting story where your military time in Canada intersects with your decision to immigrate to Canada. Tell me a little bit about that.

Darren Wearmouth:

Quite a few years ago back in early nineties I managed to get on what we call an adventure training trip with the British Army. A small group of us came to British Columbia for a five week period, and we were doing activities such as mountain climbing, canoeing, walking, trailblazing. And then at the end of the five week period, we had a week or so downtime. And we did spend that time in Vancouver, which is the first time I’ve been, and I fell in love with Vancouver then, and it kind of stuck in the back of my mind thinking if I ever moved anywhere in the world, it would be to Vancouver, hopefully. And then if I skip forward 10 years now, in one of my more senior roles in the military I was what we call the W2AQMS Weapons of an Armored Battle Group, which is the challenger two main battle tanks, the warrior fighting vehicles, ground troops, and all the support there in that battle group of users.

Darren Wearmouth:

We came to Canada to Alberta, to the BATUS Training Area. And that’s just outside of Medicine Hat in Alberta. We spent six weeks doing a full live firing battle run. And again, I fell in love with Canada and the Prairies and the mountains. I just found it appealing and it kind of ticked all the boxes for me. So subsequently the end of my career in 2008, my wife and I and the children decided we wanted to give Canada a try. So we signed the dotted line and came over. It was quite a quick three months and we got off the plane in November, 2008 and never looked back. And we’re all happy and settled and long may that remain.

Cheryl Pyper:

May I say, Canada is better off having you here with us?

Darren Wearmouth:

I’m not so sure about that.

Cheryl Pyper:

Becoming a little bit more serious. I just wanted to touch on a question. How did your experience in the military prepare you and your fellow comrades for civilian life? And if you’re comfortable, what have been the struggles? I ask this because in recent years, it’s come to light that society’s default of just not paying attention to the psychological and emotional needs of people that have experienced war – whether civilian or soldiers, it’s, you know, there hasn’t been allowed to be proper healing. And so there’s been issues related to that. And I think when we have a Remembrance Day, we need to remember the people that have struggled. Even in my own family I had a great uncle that had undiagnosed PTSD from World War Two and he eventually committed suicide. So I just wanted to get your you reflections on that.

Darren Wearmouth:

Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your uncle. And going back to the question, the military do a reasonably good attempt at trying to retrain us to move back into civilian life. And the way they do is they put us on a two or three week course, and they do actually train us to be civilians and to drop the military aspect and the military way of thinking, which is quite difficult to do after a long period of time. One of the struggles I had transitioning was actually the military speak to civilian speak. We talk in completely different ways to civilians where the acronyms and abbreviations that we clearly understand and civilians don’t have a clue what we’re talking about. Now when you’re writing a resume and applying for jobs in Canada immediately after a 22 year military period, it can be taxing to put across and put yourself forward and explain exactly what you are, what you can do and what you are willing to do.

Darren Wearmouth:

And I think I struggled the most with that, but I managed to write my resume. And as I mentioned previously, I had an interview with Sepro and with Mr. Van Kleek and Mr. McAlister and Dave Hornick, and they have a chuckle at some of the terminology I had on there, but they, you know, it was explained. And fortunately and I consider myself very lucky that I was offered a job and say, 10 years later, here we are. So it kind of worked out in that respect. Other than that, I’ve not struggled at all with it, but as for your point of the PTSD angle, it is worth mentioning. And I think it should be discussed because it’s something that any single person can struggle with this and it can show up in various different ways, different forms. I consider myself very lucky again, that didn’t seem to affect me.

Darren Wearmouth:

I don’t think I struggled with any of that sort of sense. But on return to Germany from the Middle East, after the second Gulf war, some of my guys, in fact quite a lot, did struggle extensively with it. And they range from marriages breaking up, some of my guys just becoming disassociated with their families and their children. And it’s sad because there’s not a great deal that we can do as the senior management in the military. It all comes down to the military aspect. And we are very lucky in the UK because the doctors do support us; they are there and the British veterans are given a lot of opportunity for assistance on this. And it’s something that I think needs to be expanded because over subsequent conflicts, PTSD has become a huge problem for the UK as it is in the US and some in Canada as well. I don’t know how PTSD would affect everyone. Nobody knows. I was affected a little bit. One of my soldiers committed suicide.

Darren Wearmouth:

Yeah. It was difficult. His family, his children had a rough time and I was fortunately there to help, a little bit, what I could do and you know, it’s something that touches everybody.

Cheryl Pyper:

Thank you for sharing that. And I think we need to remember people on Remembrance Day that struggle with that as well. So thank you for sharing. So moving on – so kind of on that same vein of the theme of family, you know, sadly this – it touches family members beyond just the soldier. And I was just wondering we talk to you because we honor veterans on a day like Remembrance Day, but I find it’s not really fair to the family members and loved ones that they’ve left at home as well. There’s sacrifices beyond just the military personnel. Could you share a bit more about that?

Darren Wearmouth:

Absolutely. And I would love to. As a married member of the Armed Forces in my later year I was for the first half of my 22, I was single. And so the last half I was married to my beautiful wife, Fiona, and we have two children, a boy, and a girl. Now I always considered my wife as the glue to the family. And I still do because I was expected to leave sometimes at short notice and disappear to various places around the world, sometimes for long periods of time. Now, as I mentioned, she was the glue. She’s the one that kept the children in line, on track to school. She kept the house going. She was working full time whenever we lived in the UK and she did an outstanding job. But what you’ve also got to remember is when she saw me off to go to war to the second Gulf War and that was extremely hard on both of us, but I’d say more so on her because she was constantly worrying.

Darren Wearmouth:

She was watching CNN 24 hours a day to try and find out any information that she could about how we were doing, or they weren’t getting updates from anybody, but she had the children to look after. She had the house, she had to cook meals and she had to work. I would have struggled to do everything she did. And I have a huge respect for any wife or any mother from a military family, because it is an extremely tough life sometimes. And they can get settled and get new friends. Your children go to school and make new friends and they enjoy where they are and they enjoy what they’re doing. Then suddenly we uproot them and move to a different part of the world. And it’s an aspect that a lot of civilians don’t appreciate – that being ripped away from one life after two years and then put into somewhere new. And if you don’t fit in, or if your kids don’t fit in, it can be a torturous two years. So I have much respect for military families. They’re pretty robust and especially to my wife and my children.

Cheryl Pyper:

Well, and as a mom of two that I’ve had two babies, it is staggering to me. You shared off-camera that you left once when your daughter was only six weeks old, is that correct?

Darren Wearmouth:

Yes.

Cheryl Pyper:

So I mean, that’s a very big sacrifice that you made, but also for your wife to have an infant like that and a small son, you know, those are the things that I think people don’t really know about – those like individual stories. And it is a hard, hard situation. So onto kind of celebrating you, I want to celebrate you a little bit today, too, just knowing, you know, what’s some of the hardware – do you have some hardware to show us like some medals?

Darren Wearmouth:

I do. I do. So the medals that we get, you get medals for a few different things in the British military. It’s not quite the same as you see on the Americans where they have ribbon after ribbon after ribbon. So we get very few medals and they’re normally structured to either war-fighting deployments or a particular point in time, historically, that generates the requirement for medals. So these are my medals. There are six in total. And one thing about the military medals that I’m guessing some people may not know is every medal has my military number, the rank at the time and my surname. So 24779310 Lance Corporal Wearmouth. Just quickly go through. We have the Northern Ireland Medal, First Gulf War, the Former Yugoslavia, the Second Gulf War, this one is Queen’s Jubilee Celebratory Medal. And this one here is called the Ellison GC, which is a long service, good conduct after 16 or 17 years, I lost count. But this one was actually presented to me by his Royal Highness, the Duke of Kent in Germany. And that was a memorable day. My wife was there, and so we got to meet the Duke – so a very special time for us.

Cheryl Pyper:

Absolutely. Thank you for sharing that with us. The fact that we got to see your medals is pretty cool. And thank you. I didn’t realize that about the outer edge, the bottom edge – I didn’t know that that was something that was placed on medals. So really nobody can take your medal, literally. It’s just for you – can always track it back to you. Well, just wanted to say, thank you, Darren, so much for sharing with myself and the Sepro community – your personal memories and experiences during your military service. I would say generally so many of the public have fewer touch points with the military and with that community. Certainly earlier generations had relatives that fought in World War I, World War II, but you know – many of those people have passed away. And so some of our experiences with the military are a little bit more abstract.

Cheryl Pyper:

And so by you talking with me today, you were able to kind of bring some issues and some things that we really should be honoring for Remembrance Day. You brought those things forward. So I just wanted to say, thank you. I want to reinforce our thankfulness for those who sacrifice their lives to help give us Canadians a peaceful Canada – that peaceful Canada that we know today. And we’re also thankful for those who work in peacekeeping roles internationally. And again, Darren, I just want to say a very big thank you for meeting with me today.

Darren Wearmouth:

You’re welcome. It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much.

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