The rain couldn’t douse the enthusiasm this morning as all over the United Kingdom flags were raised on public buildings, council offices, and at Parliament to honour and pay tribute to the Armed Forces in Armed Forces Week.
The flag raising commemorates the sacrifices made by those serving the country, in the lead up to the national Armed Forces Day on Saturday. Service representatives at events around the UK included sailors from the Royal Navy, soldiers from the British Army, airmen from the Royal Air Force, sourced from the Regular and Reserve Forces; as well as veterans and cadets.
In Scotland, from Edinburgh to Glasgow, Hamilton to Renfrewshire, local soldiers met with their civilian partners to raise the flag to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of Armed Forces personnel from Scotland. Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Clark, Commander Edinburgh Garrison, represented the Army in Scotland for the raising of the flag outside City Chambers on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
In Northern Ireland proceedings began on Saturday at Carrickfergus as Mid East and Antrim Borough hosted a special Armed Forces Day event, raising the flag and firing a ceremonial Gun Salute at 11am. The finale included a flypast of the RAF Red Arrows which thrilled spectators. Today, Council flags were raised at socially distanced ceremonies by Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, Antrim and Newtownabbey Council and at Thiepval Barracks.
Local authorities across Wales raised the Armed Forces flag on the weekend as a tribute to the military, including a raising of the flag at Welsh Government offices with the message: "We're proudly flying the Armed Forces flag over our buildings to recognise and celebrate their contribution to keeping us safe."
While there has been a cancellation of numerous events due to the coronavirus restrictions, some local authorities have made arrangements to mark Armed Forces Day next Saturday, such as Rhondda Cynon Taf Council (RCT), who will be holding limited outdoor fun activity sessions for families at Ynysangharad War Memorial Park.
Councillor Maureen Webber, RCT's Deputy Leader and Armed Forces Champion, said: "From currently serving troops at home and overseas, to Service families, this council will never forget the sacrifices you have made and continue to make."
Local councils across England and the Channel Islands have held their own distinctive flag raising events and more activities are planned over the coming days as each authority seeks to pay tribute to their local armed forces, especially those who have stepped forward to help during the pandemic crisis.
In London where 4,000 Armed Forces personnel live and work, every borough defied the grey skies and raised the Armed Forces Flag.
At the Palace of Westminster a special socially distanced ceremony, incorporating MPs and Armed Forces representatives from all corners of the UK, was held in Palace Yard to honour the bravery and commitment of the Armed Forces. Music was provided by a Brass Quintet of the Band of the Coldstream Guards. The Union Flag, Armed Forces Day flag and the flag of British Antarctic Territory for Midwinter Day were raised by immaculately turned out and very proud soldiers from The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, the Grenadier Guards, and Scots Guards.
The Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle began proceedings with ‘a very big thank you’ to the Armed Forces for their help in combatting COVID-19. He said: ‘We have the bravest, most loyal military personnel in the world in our Royal Navy, British Army and, Royal Air Force. They are there at times of war, but especially when we need them on the home front - and none more so than during the pandemic.’
Since the pandemic began, military personnel have been tasked with:
- Supporting the vaccination roll-out
- Deploying Defence medics to hospitals to relieve pressure on the NHS
- Assisting in non-clinical roles, including porter duties to free up NHS staff and driving ambulances
- Supporting government departments and agencies with specialist logistics, planning, IT and leadership roles
- Supporting local authorities with community testing
Speaker’s Chaplain Reverend Tricia Hillas and the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle led prayers during the Palace of Westminster service, which was also attended by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘This week is an annual opportunity for all of us to recognise the work our Armed Forces do, at home and abroad, to keep us safe’.
The Armed Forces do what no other elements of the nation’s security framework can do. That is to fight to protect those things considered essential to our way of life. The Armed Forces provide the United Kingdom with a modern, capable and sophisticated force. Adaptable and resilient, they rise to every challenge. They can be relied upon to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of the United Kingdom in difficult times, and this year has been no exception.
Armed Forces Week is an annual opportunity to raise awareness of the contribution made to our country by those who serve and have served in Her Majesty's Armed Forces. Much curtailed this year due to COVID Restrictions on large scale gatherings, a televised national Armed Forces Day event will be held at the National Memorial Arboretum on Saturday 26 June, with several small scale socially distanced events being held across the countries of the United Kingdom throughout the week.