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Maj Gemma Pearson (RLC) and her wife Sgt Heidi Silcox (RAMC) have credited the amazing support received from coaches and teammates alike as they aim to make more history in this year’s Inter-Services.

The duo, who became the first couple to play for the Red Shirts at Twickenham back in 2022, have since become mums to 10-month-old baby Louie with centre Gemma now back in the squad following a year out.

And the 32-year-old, who has also represented both the Army and UKAF at netball, reflected on the newest addition to the family as she said: “It’s been amazing, a bit of a baptism of fire because it’s the first time we’ve been around young babies, but I just can’t imagine life without him now – he’s part of our little tribe.

“The support we’ve had from the girls has been fantastic – especially given how far away our parents live.”

Balancing motherhood, work, sport and more has not been easy, but Gemma could not thank the Army Rugby Union enough for their help and understanding as she continued: “It has been difficult, but they have been beyond fantastic.

“We messaged (coach) Sarah Mitchelson early in the season and said, ‘this is what we can offer, we’re going to have to dip in and dip out and need a bit of flexibility’, but she came back with such an incredible response.

“She told us: ‘We want you as part of the team, however much or little that can be for this season – it will never hinder selection and we want Louie at training, at games – bring the front-carrier because we’ll strap him to anyone’.

“And throughout the season it’s just been fantastic. He’s been at nearly every training session and game so far and the coaches and players all pitch in to help us whether that be helping with logistics, getting there and back to training or literally strapping him to their front so me and Heidi can get stuck in training.

“I think literally every player and member of the group has held him on the sidelines at some point already – we were saying the other day people believe it takes a village to raise a baby, well for us, it definitely takes a rugby team because they’ve all been so great.”

Heidi, who met Gemma through Army Rugby some five years ago and joked ‘she was impressed with my skills,’ added: “It’s made us feel so welcome, but it also shows if you want to play this awesome game – if you’re a bit unsure because you’ve got a little one at home or other logistical nightmares – we want anyone who is keen to develop at rugby to come and play.

“Everyone in the squad makes each other as welcome as possible and it’s an incredible environment.”

Images © Alligin Photography

Helping things run smoothly is Louie’s temperament, Heidi, 31, explaining: “He’s so chilled and just wants to be involved in everything. We’ve taken him to the (United) States, Spain and he’s just so flexible – he adapts to every environment and is incredible.”

The couple, who were married on ‘a great day’ in Chester two years ago, have both been with the Army for more than a decade, with Heidi revealing as a medic it was the draw of deployments, availability of sporting participation and the team ethos which proved the key factors in signing up.

Sharing similar reasons for joining the Forces, Gemma enrolled at Sandhurst following a degree at Lancaster University and a gap year, commenting: “I wanted to be part of an environment where there’s a shared focus and goals, and the Army is one of those organisations which still has that.

“We’re all pulling in the same direction, whether it be sport, work, whatever it is, you are part of a team and I love that.”

Sport especially holds a passion for Gemma, who continued: “I prioritised coming back to rugby because there’s an age limit where my bones are going to hurt, whereas with netball I can probably do another 10 years.

“I always knew I wanted to return, and we tried to plan it so I’d only miss one season.

“We’ve both always wanted to play for as long as we can, but we also knew we wanted a baby and we thought this is the right age to have him, come back for a couple more seasons and then look to have a second one when our boots are hung up.”

With Inter-Services now very much on the horizon, Army Women have enjoyed a steady build through the season having beaten Pacific Islanders and Brunel University before going down to a strong Sweden side.

And Gemma was in confident mood as she said: “I feel like we’re moving in a good direction. We’ve just had the training camp where we got to try new things, and now we’re getting into the meat of the season – it’s full steam ahead for Inter-Services.

“We’ve got quite a few people deployed now which means some new girls, but it shows the strength in depth.

“Everything is building blocks towards IS and making sure for those two games we’re cooking on gas.”

Further games are lined up against British Police, England Under 20s and Wales U20s before the Navy clash at the start of May, but Heidi concluded by reflecting on her two previous appearances at HQ, stating: “To play at Twickenham is unreal – when you get into that week everything becomes electric.

“Not many of us have played elite, national sport, but I can only imagine that’s what the experience is like – having the coverage, the support, it’s just brilliant.”

Words © Richard Ashton

Match action images © Alligin Photography

All other images provided by Gemma and Heidi Pearson-Silcox


Tickets for the 2024 Inter Service Championship matches are on sale now!

To purchase yours click the links below;

Saturday 4th May | Army v Navy | Twickenham | BUY TICKETS

Saturday 11th May | Army v RAF | Kingsholm | BUY TICKETS