I’M one hour into a breakfast with several Armed Forces veterans when one of them offers to buy me an ‘egg banjo’.

To any veteran, this is the universal description of a runny egg sandwich.

This is a simple example of the shorthand which exists amongst those who have served in the British Army.

Mike Henderson, administrator for Clacton’s Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club (AFVBC), started the group as a means of allowing this mutual understanding to flourish.

Mike, 33, served with the Royal Signals for eight years, but points across the table to veterans who have served in a Cavalry Regiment, the Anglian Regiment and the Air Corps.

The club often welcomes a serving Naval engineer, police officers and ex firemen.

Mike said: “Statistically, 30 per cent of veterans struggle with isolation because of their conditioning at a young and impressionable age.

“I joined at 16, leaving from Holland-on-Sea.

“I left school, didn’t go to sixth form, didn’t know what I was going to do. This is a seasonal town and you struggle for work here at a certain pay.

“I wanted to see the world and it was the cheapest way for me to do it and to get a career.”

Mike did see the world, with postings in Germany, Afghanistan, Cyprus and the Falklands, but found there was nowhere to turn when he took the decision to leave the Army.

“We can talk a bit more openly now about this kind of thing now,” he said.

“Say if my dad served – he wouldn’t be saying ‘no one’s ever rung me to check on me.’ “But I am happy to say it.

"No-one has ever called me from the military to see if I’m alive, if I’ve got a house.

“No-one knows if my career worked out.

“I could be in the gutter for all they know.

“It is almost like we are picking up the slack.”

When Mike took steps to start a breakfast club for veterans, he was encouraged to find there was already a national group and soon started a Clacton branch.

He is keen to emphasise its relaxed nature.

“The purpose is to come to a safe place to talk about things you maybe can’t share otherwise,” he said.

“Steve’s an RNLI volunteer and runs his own security firm.

“He might be able to help employ some of us, talk about his career, chat or just get things off his chest.

“In its simplest form it is to have breakfast with people who have served.”

Martin, a veteran of the Air Corps who asks we just use his first name, is attending the club for the first time after seeking help from the NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service.

He is already buoyed by the atmosphere.

“The reason we’ve got so many different arms within the Army is that they’re all specialised in doing one job,” he said.

“We’ve got our own little connections and our own little rubs, but as soon as we get an enemy they are the common enemy.

“But we don’t have enemies any more.

“Now the enemy is what we make of what we have – how do we deal with this environment?

“The answer is we use the threads we’ve had in previous lives and we draw them together.

“Like a reverse spider – it’s not about putting the web out but drawing it in to a central core of people who are mutually supportive.”

As I spend more time with the group they relax and Martin gives me a prime example of the unique experience a serving soldier can have at a very young age.

He thinks back to his time serving in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

“It was so strange,” he said.

“The strangest thing for me as a young lad – only 18 – is you could walk down this High Street and it would be the same in Ireland.

“It would be a normal day, people speaking English going about their shopping. It might as well be England.

“We go to foreign lands overseas, and it is a different language, a different culture, different smells and whole different environment.

“You go to Northern Ireland there are chip shops and betting shops – it’s normal life.

“They put a firearm in your hands and say your job now is to protect your life.

“You fly into Heathrow and you think the only thing that’s changed is I’m not carrying a pistol anymore.

“Then as soon as you come out the forces they don’t want to know you anymore.”

Some veterans attend the breakfast club solely to listen to others, but all are immensely proud of their time with the Army.

Sam Kerrison, who served with the Royal Artillery, is St Osyth’s star poppy seller for the Royal British Legion.

At 72, he is the oldest member of the breakfast club and left the Army “before Mike was even born.”

He proudly recounts: “I left on August 30, 1986, after 12 years and 203 days.

“I am quite hardened to it all now. I don’t suffer from anything, but I do know some people do and I know it is good to chat.

“I did spend a lot of time in Ireland, in Bogside in Londonderry and I faced those riots.

“I picked up people who had been knee-capped just for talking to us.

“But I spent my last few years as a senior instructor at the Royal Artillery School – I was 25 when I started and 39 and a half when I came out. I was clued up.

“I had worked in civilian life so I understood civilian life.

“But it left a mark in here. It is like a brotherhood and like a new family. If I could give something back and chat to somebody who needs it I will.”

There are 280 clubs across the country.

Everyone who leaves the Army now gets a flier signposting them to their nearest club.

It’s website says its purpose is to allow veterans to ‘return to the tribe’ and this is a sentiment I truly understand after sitting down with Clacton’s club.

Mike said: “We do have serving Naval engineer, we have Kev who is serving RAF, serving policemen and an ex fireman.

“Everyone comes and goes.

“It’s a magnet – as they are all in in similar situations.

“There are no individuals here it is a group, if there is a joke said you can expect to have something said back.

“I would say that is the difference between us and civilians. We say but we receive as well. You have to see other sides of life.”

Martin adds: “As soon as you say ex-serviceman you stereotype someone.

“When it comes to multiculturalism we’re at the top of the spear and we are its sharpest point, because we’ve gone into cultures not to disrupt the culture but to basically adhere it and to keep it together.”

The club meets every second and fourth Saturday of the month at 10.45am, at The Kabin Cafe, in High Street, Clacton.