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Bury St Edmunds Combat2Coffee achieves aim of supporting those connected to armed forces, says volunteer Major Ian Robinson





A coffee shop that has become a support hub for the military community has seen its monthly breakfast club increase in popularity.

The Bury St Edmunds branch of Combat2Coffee opened in the Constitutional Club in Guildhall Street in October 2021 and since then has been supporting ex and current military personnel’s mental health and wellbeing.

The coffee shop, which is open Tuesday to Saturday, also welcomes anyone from the wider community through its doors.

The toaster donation: Ian Robinson, Catherine Buchanan, Debbie Robinson, Nigel Seaman, Wendy Hooton and Sue Simpson. Picture: Mecha Morton
The toaster donation: Ian Robinson, Catherine Buchanan, Debbie Robinson, Nigel Seaman, Wendy Hooton and Sue Simpson. Picture: Mecha Morton

Major Ian Robinson, who helped fundraise to open the branch and volunteers there, said they were ‘over the moon’ with how the first year had gone, with the monthly veterans’ breakfast club it hosts a notable success.

Donated toasters were presented at the breakfast on Saturday, January 7, which now means toast can also be served. The donation was from Wendy Hooton, WRAC (Women’s Royal Army Corps) veteran, Sue Simpson, a supporter of the WRAC and whose father served in Gallipoli, and Catherine Buchanan, WRAC veteran and also served in the TA (Territorial Army).

Maj Robinson, 54, a reservist with 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, said there was a ‘real buzz’ at the veterans’ breakfasts, which are attended by 50 to 60 people.

Dave (Granny) Granfield, David McIntyre and Ian Robinson serving up the breakfast. Picture: Mecha Morton
Dave (Granny) Granfield, David McIntyre and Ian Robinson serving up the breakfast. Picture: Mecha Morton

“It’s really, really popular and there’s a nice atmosphere, and that is something that has become a little bit wider than just veterans - they tend to bring their families in. It’s quite a nice range; we might have people from their 80s right down to youngsters.

“We are really pleased with that aspect of what we do and it helps us get the message out there more widely we are open as a coffee shop and you can come in whenever you want. Additionally, it’s really had the benefit of connecting more veterans together.”

The Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club started in Bury St Edmunds in 2018 and was originally held in the Wetherspoon.

Once Combat2Coffee opened in the town, it was felt that this location would be better suited and so from November 2021 the coffee shop has held the veterans' breakfast once a month on a Saturday.

Veteran Bob Rackham with volunteer Karen Nichols at the breakfast club on Saturday. Picture: Mecha Morton
Veteran Bob Rackham with volunteer Karen Nichols at the breakfast club on Saturday. Picture: Mecha Morton

Veteran Mark Beckham said: "I always look forward to the vets' breakfast and catching up with everyone. It has a different dynamic because your with your mates you served with - a different breed from other friends. The bond is unbreakable and we are all there for each other.

"The team work hard to ensure a good breakfast is on offer and it’s obvious how important to them it is for us to have a great time/experience. A day I look forward to every month. Would be lost without that connection."

Veteran Bob Rackham said: "I look forward to the vets' brekkie morning where I get to meet up with old friends and enjoy a good meal at the same time.

"I have my own family joining me and they enjoy it too. There is always a smile from the volunteers and always someone to talk too so you never have to feel alone. Good food at a good price."

Former soldier Nigel Seaman, Combat2Coffee founder, and Debbie Robinson with Julie Turner who, along with Providor Ltd, donated the urn. Picture: Mecha Morton
Former soldier Nigel Seaman, Combat2Coffee founder, and Debbie Robinson with Julie Turner who, along with Providor Ltd, donated the urn. Picture: Mecha Morton

The coffee shop - which is also a warm hub - is somewhere people can have a chat and, if needed, be signposted to support.

Maj Robinson said it had become a support hub, with an Armed Forces support group run by the NHS among those that meet there, and they were achieving their aim of helping people.

“We regularly get people feeding back it’s been a bit of a lifesaver for them to they have just a good place to pop in every now and then and it’s made their day a little bit brighter,” he said.

The aim now is to make sure people are aware the coffee shop is open for the wider community, he said, and they would like an increase in general footfall.

Dave (Granny) Granfield, David McIntyre and Ian Robinson serving up the breakfast. Picture: Mecha Morton
Dave (Granny) Granfield, David McIntyre and Ian Robinson serving up the breakfast. Picture: Mecha Morton