From Civvy Street to Coronation Street for armed forces reservist Chris

While most of us may have taken in the coronation of King Charles II on our television screens, one Aggregate Industries employee got a front row view.

Petty Officer Chris Willett of the Navy Reserves in his uniform outside Aggregate Industries's group HQ

Chris Willett, who is a Materials Technician at the company’s Bardon Hill Technical Centre, is also a Navy Reservist and was mobilised as part of the King’s Coronation ceremony.

Chris (49), who has worked for AI for more than 20 years and is from Coalville, is a Petty Officer and was called up as part of the celebrations - and we’re sharing his story as part of Armed Forces Week.

Three weeks of training was followed by a week of preparation and rehearsals where Chris found himself in the middle of it all as part of the armed forces procession with around four-and-a-half thousand other servicemen and women from the UK and Commonwealth.

He processed from Whitehall to Buckingham Palace as part of the Royal Carriage procession, before forming in the back garden of the palace to receive the royal salute and give three cheers for the newly crowned monarch.

Chris said: “That was a really special moment. It was a day of huge pride in what you do and in the uniform. To be part of a major occasion like that and to represent your service, your family, your company and country was extremely humbling.

“It was a major worldwide event and one that is unlikely to be repeated again in my lifetime. I still look back now and can’t believe I was part of it.”

In his day job Chris conducts quality assurance carrying out sampling and testing on asphalt and aggregate products from our Bardon Hill site in Leicestershire.

But in his spare time he volunteers as a naval reservist. His local base is HMS Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, while HMS Collingwood in Portsmouth in his shoreside home. He commits a minimum of 24 days a year to support the navy and is a trained naval communicator.

Navy Reservist Chris Willett marches in full uniform with other service men and women at the King's Coronation ceremony

He was mobilised as part of the London 2012 Olympics, has spent six months in Bahrain, completed battlefield tours of France and Belgium and supported operations in Scotland.

“I joined in my mid-thirties as I had spare time and wanted a challenge. My Dad spent half his life in the navy so I grew up with it. I’d lived in five different houses before I was seven before settling in Coalville due to family connections.

“Being a reserve has helped me to get fit and learn new skills. For me it feels like giving something back and serving my country. It has made me a better person and I work with a wide range of people but you can only do it with the support of your employer.

“Aggregate Industries has been fantastic and extremely supportive. They really value and  understand it by putting reservist and veteran friendly policies in place.”

Aggregate Industries has been recognised as a gold standard Armed Forces Covenant Employer. As a reservist Chris gets an extra 10 days paid holiday a year. He is also part of AI’s Veterans and Families Affinity Network which provides support for veterans, reservists, cadets and families of the armed forces. The company is also to be included in the forthcoming 100 Great British Employers of Veterans.

Chris said: “It is great to be part of the affinity network. It is surprising the amount of veterans in the business but we bring a lot of transferable skills and the company provides a lot of support. 

“I’m 50 next year and I want to continue in the reserves until I’m 60. In that time I have one big last remaining wish and that is to be able to mobilise on an aircraft carrier at some point in the next ten years.”

Aggregate Industries is a leading supplier of building materials with its group headquarters near Coalville in Leicestershire.

For more information on opportunities with Aggregate Industries visit our careers pages.

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