Meet our team

Our UK charity for veterans of the armed forces and emergency services has some great supporters. Many are veterans themselves, so understand the problems associated with returning to civilian life.

Patron: Bernard Cornwell OBE

Bernard Cornwell author

Bernard Cornwell, OBE is the author of many historical novels including the Sharpe stories about the Napoleonic Wars. He feels very strongly about veterans’ needs.

Bernard has kindly allowed us to call our Café Hubs after his hero, famously played by Sean Bean. We are also offering world-exclusive merchandise based on quotes from the novels in our Sharpe’s cafés.

“I’ve made a living writing about the adventures of soldiers. It just seems appropriate to give something back to the men and women who’ve provided me with so much material! I have a huge admiration for those who serve in our Armed Forces. They risk everything to make certain we have a comfortable existence. Too often their problems and needs are ignored when their service ends.

A very good soldier once told me that his career had been spent ‘fighting battles for those who can’t fight for themselves’. Now many of those men and women who fought those selfless battles need help themselves. FirstLight is trying to offer that help, and I’m honoured to be involved.”

Vice Chair: Ida Beerhalter

Ida Beerhalter

Ida is the Co-Head of IOME, a private investment partnership of women principals from the Gulf region with its head office in Riyadh, KSA. She also serves as Member of the Board, trustee and advisor to various for-profit and not-for-profit organisations around the globe.

“I became a Trustee in memory of my grandfathers. They fought the physical and psychological aftermath of World War II’s horrors alone. I heard their stories about how difficult it was to get back to civilian life. They described it as being like an uprooted tree which needs to be re-planted. FirstLight provides those roots.”

Trustee: Jim Bowden

Jim Bowden - trustee of FirstLight Trust

A former Brigadier with the Royal Engineers, Jim served in the Falkland Islands, Northern Ireland, Balkans and Iraq. Delivering military engineering bomb disposal gave him a particular interest in the importance of resilience, strategic planning, infrastructure support and sustainable development. This is what he now focuses on.

As well as commanding operations Jim has established such diverse programmes as the Whole Fleet Management, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Army Retention Strategy. He was also a Trustee and Director of the Army Sports Control Board. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Royal Engineers and the Chartered Institute of Management.

Since leaving the Army Jim has worked for KBR, Carillion and AECOM as a Business Unit Leader, Sector Lead and Business Development Director.

Trustee: James Hayward

James Hayward - FirstLight Trust trustee

James served in the Royal Navy as a Reserve Officer for more than 20 years, rising to the rank of Commander. He is also a Professional Chartered Engineer with more than 40 years’ experience, spending most of that time working for the NHS as a Director of Estates, Facilities and Capital, in a number of medium and large acute hospitals across the country.

He is also the Non-Executive chairman of Beyond Housing, a large association operating in the North Yorkshire / Cleveland region. He is also a Non-Executive Director for GFSL a Ministry of Justice owned company, providing services to the Prison estate in the South of England.  He also remains active in supporting the Yorkshire and Humber Reserve Forces and Cadets Association.

Vice Chair: Simon Hodges

Simon Hodges

Simon is a former Coldstream Guards officer where he served on operational tours including Bosnia in 1994.

As a result of his own life journey and seeing PTSD’s impact, Simon is passionate about teaching people the tools for great mental health. He believes they are not taught nearly widely enough in society today.

Simon is a chartered accountant. Previously he was CEO of the Family Office of one of Middle East’s oldest trading families. He was also a partner of the international trust services firm Rawlinson & Hunter and a senior manager with the Swire Group.

Today Simon has a thriving coaching and consulting practice and is committed to working with individuals who are seeking greater purpose and fulfilment in life; bringing them back into alignment with who they truly are, so that they can lead more joyful, meaningful and impactful lives. This work extends into his consultancy practice with wealthy and complex families who want to empower their children to find meaning and responsibility in their wealth and make it a blessing and a force for good.

You can find more information about Simon’s work here: www.simonhodges.com, www.hodges.je

Trustee: Dorinda Wolfe Murray

Dorinda’s father was a Gordon Highlander and she comes from a military family. She has witnessed first-hand the catastrophic impact PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can have on lives.

As founder of the award-winning Independent Gardening Ltd (appropriately transformed into Knackered Gardener Ltd), Dorinda creates outside space for sufferers of brain injuries and neurological disorders. These gardens are designed for enjoyment and practicality. The therapeutic garden Dorinda showed at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is now located at Combat Stress’s Tyrwhitt House centre.  Dorinda is also a trustee of ASDIC the network for UK drop in centres, and is a firm believer in the power of collaboration and environment to help support lead better and happier lives within their communities.