Alumnus of the Month: August 2022
Nick (known as Freddie) Perham is our Verulam School August 2022 Alumnus of the Month. He left Verulam School in 1989 and is now an officer in the Royal Marines.
Please tell us a little about yourself – where do you work and how did you get into this role?
At the time of writing, I am the UK Senior Military Adviser to Cameroon and UK non-resident Defence Attaché to Chad, a role I started in March 2021, based in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
The journey started in 1991 when I joined the Royal Marines. My military career has had an operational and training focus. Following recruit training, I served in 45 Commando, based in Arbroath Scotland. Over the next 17 years I deployed operationally to Kuwait (1994), Northern Ireland (1995, 2000), Afghanistan (2002, 2008) and Iraq (2005). Beyond operations, I conducted environmental training in Norway, Belize, Brunei, Jordon, USA and in 1997 while serving in 40 Commando deployed globally, part of the UK’s amphibious capability; to Europe, Africa and Asia which included the retrocession of Hong Kong.
I instructed recruits at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) in 2003, then officers and non-commissioned officers whilst on Loan Service with the British Military Advisory and Training Team in the Czech Republic from 2006-08.
Selected for commissioning in 2009, I was initially appointed as Officer Commanding Equipment Support Troop at the Commando Helicopter Force in Yeovilton. Since then I have conducted operational deployments to Iraq (2010, 2018-19), Afghanistan (2011), Sierra Leone (2015) and South Sudan (2017). I returned to CTCRM for a year in 2012 to instruct recruits. Subsequently, appointed Quartermaster (Technical) at 42 Commando, based in Plymouth from 2013-15, this included a period deployed to Australia. I assumed the role of Quartermaster at 30 Commando IX Group, also based in Plymouth thereafter, before completing the Initial Command and Staff Course (Land) at the Defence Academy in 2018 – it was like going back to school for nearly a year! I was then an operations and plans officer within the Ministry of Defence in London from 2019-21, before deploying to Cameroon.
What are some of your proudest achievements since leaving Verulam School?
Numerous. However, if I had to highlight one it would be the deployment to Sierra Leone in 2015 during the Ebola crisis. I was the Chief of Staff of the Western Area Ebola Response centre coordinating the response across the capital (Freetown). I directly managed a dedicated team of over 140 local staff. The role was extremely demanding and the challenges were compounded by unreliable infrastructure, paucity of resource and peculiarities of the governance structure. Despite the illness, quarantine and deaths, the team remained utterly focused on achieving Ebola zero – no cases. This we achieved in late 2015. Despite receiving a commendation for my efforts, it was getting to no cases that remains one of my proudest achievements.
What advice would you give someone looking to follow a similar career path?
Give it a go. Many people talk about it, but often that is all it is – talk. Therefore, my advice is to take that first step, do your research, understand what is involved and apply to join.
As I have always said – nothing ventured, nothing gained. There are many opportunities in the military; you don’t know what they are until you have conducted some research. Like I say, if interested, give it a go.
How have your experiences at Verulam School contributed to your life and successes since leaving school?
I was very keen on sport at Verulam; captaining the school and county rugby teams for a number of years. The leadership experience I gained during this certainly developed my self-confidence. I can remember a number of occasions that I had to deliver an after match speech, thanking the opposition, officials and others, the ability to be able to stand and talk in front of others is a skill that should not be underestimated. I also think Verulam helped to develop some of my attributes that the Royal Marines prides itself; of consistently displaying understated excellence, integrity, self-discipline and humility and the qualities of courage, determination, unselfishness and cheerfulness in the face of adversity.
What House were you in at Verulam School and can you describe one of your fondest memories?
I was in Park. It would have to be linked to rugby. Both on and off the field I have so many fond memories. Verulam were blessed to have had some exceptional rugby coaches during my time at school. Simon Hardy spent hours honing my skills as a hooker, and Alan Woodland really taught me how the game should be played. I am indebted to both. However, one of my fondest memories that I remember vividly is the first time I was selected to represent Hertfordshire, at U14s. I can still remember opening the letter and seeing my name on the list, a real achievement that I had worked so hard for.
Unsure to be honest. After 31 years military service (and counting), I am nearing the end of my career. What I do upon leaving is currently unknown. Whatever I decide to do I will certainly look back on my school and working life to date with a sense of satisfaction – no one can ask for more.
We love hearing what our alumni have been doing since leaving Verulam School. Each month, we are inviting a member of our alumni community to share their story of life after Verulam. If you’re and alumnus who would like to take part, or you’d like to volunteer an alumnus that you know, then please drop us an email.