A female soldier has been hailed the ‘new Vera Lynn’ after becoming the first person recruited to the army – for her SINGING voice.
Talented Leila Jones, 24, has the distinction of being the only all-singing squaddie after being head-hunted for her dulcet tones.
She has been dubbed the new “Forces Sweetheart” and has already delighted modern troops with renditions of “We’ll Meet Again” and “The White Cliffs of Dover”.
Given the rank of Musician Jones she parades with HQ Company, 6 Rifles, at Wyvern Barracks, Exeter, Devon, which is also the base for the Salamanca Band and Bugles.
Her specialist role will involve performing at ceremonial engagements or singing her favourite soul songs at less formal occasions.
Leila said: “As a youngster, I wondered if I would make it as a singer but it didn’t happen.
But joining the Reserves has been brilliant.
“I like to throw myself fully into every activity, whether it’s through music, out training with the rest of the company or on one of my skiing trips with the Army.”
Leila, whose mum Louise runs a hotel tea room in Paignton, Devon, studied classical singing to Grade 8 standard in her teens between fronting several rock bands.
She was head girl at Trinity School, Teignmouth, where she wore uniform for the first time as a Royal Navy cadet.
This influenced her decision to join Exeter Officer Training Corps and become the golden voice of the Salamanca Band.
Whilst at the Officers’ Training Corps (OTC) at Wyvern Barracks in Exeter, Leila started a band with ten other musicians and asked permission to use band facilities for practices.
She said: “People then heard me singing and, as a result, I was asked if I would like to join the band to sing soul on a tour to Dubai.
“As I was already in the OTC, it wasn’t too much of a problem joining the Army Reserve, which happened in April 2014.”
After Dubai, the band visited Saudi Arabia and there was also a tour to Georgia and Armenia.
She added: “It was an extraordinary experience where we played in front of school children who had never previously known live music.
“I have never signed so many autographs.”
Leila is starting a legal practitioner’s course at the University of Bristol this year but will stay with her unit and continue to represent 6 Rifles as the only female member of their skiing team.
She hopes to become a regular army lawyer in future.