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Armed Forces Day celebrated in Wales and Northern Ireland

Thousands of people turned out to enjoy Armed Forces Day celebrations in Wales and Northern Ireland.

A military parade of 300 personnel were cheered through Wales’s newest city, Wrexham, while more than 20,000 people visited a sunny Rifle Park, home of Banbridge Rugby Club, for this year's Armed Forces Day in Northern Ireland.

The Regimental Band and Corps of Drums of The Royal Welsh led the marching parade in North Wales as the Armed Forces Day flag flew above the Wrexham Guildhall.

The band was accompanied by 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards Farrier Major, Mark Holland, with Welsh mountain pony Lance Corporal Emrys Forlan Jones, Goat Major Sergeant Mark Jackson and Fusilier Shenkin IV of The Royal Welsh, along with the rest of the military contingent following behind.

Colonel Sion Walker, Deputy Commander 160th (Welsh) Brigade, gave a speech on behalf of the Armed Forces to kick off the event.

“Armed Forces Day provides an important opportunity to reaffirm our links with the city and with your people.” Colonel Sion Walker, Deputy Commander 160th (Welsh) Brigade

“I want to say a heart felt thank you to Wrexham Council and the people of Wrexham for such a warm welcome during what is the first major public event here since you were awarded City status.

“As such, I’m delighted to report that the future of Hightown Barracks, here in Wrexham, is also sharing your good fortune. You will no doubt recall that just four years ago, the barrack’s future was in serious doubt.

“But following a significant amount of work by my team and by the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association in Wales, the future is much brighter.

“A wide variety of organisations are now based at Hightown, restoring it back to full capacity: a first for a long time and establishes the Army’s commitment to North Wales.”

Colonel Walker also spoke of the city’s “long and proud association” with the military.

He said: “Hightown Barracks was The Royal Welch Fusiliers regimental home for nearly a century. 

“This linkage is shortly to be revitalised in a very public way by Offa Community Council’s plan to place a life-size statue of the Regimental Goat, for so long the icon of the Welsh infantry, and his Goat Major on a plinth just outside the Barracks.

“This will be a very visible manifestation of the city’s pride in its links with the Army and the Armed Forces more widely.

“Of course, the city has a long association with both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force too. Indeed, RAF Wrexham was a very important facility, providing the night-fighter aircraft that covered strategic areas during World War Two and defended Liverpool and Manchester during The Battle of Britain.

“One of your citizens, the pilot Flight Lieutenant David Lord DFC, was awarded the VC for his gallant actions over Arnhem during World War Two.

“To this day, every single fighter pilot in the Royal Navy and RAF are still trained in North Wales.

“Wrexham has long provided many generations of service personnel into the Armed Forces and long may that continue.

“Armed Forces Day provides an important opportunity to reaffirm our links with the city and with your people.”

Director of Music for The Band of The Royal Welsh, Denis Burton, took part in his last Armed Forces Day before retiring.

“We’re always well received and it’s always a privilege to lead the parade from the front and begin these special occasions.” Royal Welsh Band Director Denis Burton

“Being involved in Armed Forces Day parades gives Service Personnel and enormous buzz. These kinds of events draw in thousands of people and it’s a real pleasure to perform in front of so many members of the public and they really appreciate your presence.

He said: “There’s a lot of regimental history relating to The Royal Welsh in Wrexham. Near to where the parade started there’s the Royal Welch Fusiliers memorial, there is also an annual gathering here in what is now Wales’s newest city.

“We’re always well received and it’s always a privilege to lead the parade from the front and begin these special occasions.”

Councillor Beverley Parry Jones said: “We had an absolutely amazing day and the sight of so many servicemen in uniform is something I will always remember. The armed forces are very close to my heart and it is a privilege and pleasure to be Armed Forces Champion for Wrexham.

"I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and chatting with servicemen and their families from across Wales who sacrifice so much in serving their country.

“The military displays and exhibitions were very interesting and were appreciated by everyone who attended. I would like to add my sincere thanks to everyone who turned out to show their appreciation for and celebrate our Armed Forces.

“We will always remember our servicemen at our annual Remembrance event in November.

“I wish Newport every success for their event next year.”

In Northern Ireland the day started with a drum head service held at the war memorial in the centre of town and was attended by the Lord Lieutenant for County Down, Gawn Rowan Hamilton, JMC Commander for 38 (Irish) Brigade, Brigadier James Senior ,as well as representatives from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.

The main street leading to the venue was lined with spectators marshalled by the police and staff from Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council (ABC Council). Immediately after the service the parade moved off to the sounds of the Band of Royal Irish Regiment ,followed some way behind by the Band of the Irish Guards.

The parade was made up of members of the Royal Irish Regiment, Irish Guards, Reservists from HMS Hibernia, 502 Squadron RAF Auxiliary, cadets, veterans and flag bearers from the Royal British legion (RBL), who marched the half-mile from the war memorial followed by the thousands that lined the route.

After an address by the Mayor of ABC Council, Lord Mayor Councillor Paul Greenfield, and the Vice Lord Lieutenant Catherine Champion, a flypast by the Red arrows marked the beginning of the fun and festivities with displays and stands from all three services.

An appearance from the Silver Stars parachute display team had spectators looking skyward again as the queues to get into the park ebbed and flowed.

A number of musical acts, including the famous Red Hot Chilli Pipers, got things rocking with their quirky renditions of some famous tunes.

“It was a great honour for us to show you a little of what we do and to meet so many of the people we are so proud to serve.” Brigadier James Senior, Joint Military Commander Northern Ireland

The finale to the day was a Beating Retreat, played by the Band of the Royal Irish Regiment and the Bugles, Pipes and Drums of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Irish, a great way to finish Armed Forces Day for Northern Ireland and to mark the beginning of Armed Forces week, culminating in the national event to be held this year in Scarborough.

Joint Military Commander Northern Ireland, Brigadier James Senior CBE, applauded the council and local community.

He said: “On behalf of all Armed Forces personnel who are fortunate to serve in Northern Ireland, I would like to thank the councillors, the officers and staff of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, as well as the community for coming out today and showing their support for our Armed Forces.

“It was a great honour for us to show you a little of what we do and to meet so many of the people we are so proud to serve.”

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Paul Greenfield, said: “It was a great day with a great atmosphere. As a town and borough with strong military connections, I’m delighted that we were able to honour our Armed Forces and veterans for their service and sacrifice during this special Platinum Jubilee year.

“We admire all they do to defend our nation, and are full of admiration for the discipline and bravery they demonstrate while serving their country with great distinction at home and overseas.”