Across the country flag raising ceremonies have taken place to kickstart the events of Armed Forces Week. Flags were raised on public buildings, council offices, London City Hall and the Houses of Parliament to pay tribute to the UK’s servicemen and women ahead of the National Armed Forces Day.
From Grantham to Glasgow, across all four corners of the UK, flag raising ceremonies are a traditional and symbolic event held to demonstrate public support for all that the Armed Forces have done and continue to do.
The flag raising events across the country aim to honour the bravery and commitment of service personnel past and present, ahead of Armed Forces Day which will take place on Saturday 25 June, celebrated by the Armed Forces Day National Event in Scarborough. Representatives from all three of the services, regular and reserve as well as veterans and cadets attended the events around the UK.
At City Hall this morning, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan joined members of the Armed Forces, the London Assembly and the City Hall branch of the British legion to celebrate the Armed Forces in the 14th annual flag raising ceremony at London’s City Hall, although the first to take place at its new location at the Royal Docks.
The Mayor was joined by representatives from across the Armed Forces including Rear Admiral Donald Doull CBE; Brigadier Andrew Wright MBE; Air Commodore Ian Tolfts OBE; Commander Andrew Swain MBE, Chief of Staff; and Petty Officer Cadet Sahoo from Croydon Sea Cadet Unit.
"Armed Forces Day provides an important opportunity for us to show our support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community - from currently serving troops to Service families, veterans and cadets. We owe a great deal of gratitude to these brave women and men who have dedicated their lives to defending our interests around the world, promoting peace, delivering aid, tackling drug smugglers, providing security and fighting terrorism. It is an honour to join together to pay tribute to their service and bravery." Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
Early in the afternoon, Parliament also paid tribute to the Armed Forces at a special flag raising ceremony in New Palace Yard, overlooked by the House of Commons, led by the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Honorary Colonel of 3 Medical Regiment.
Supporting the event with musical accompaniment were members of the Band of Scots Guards in their scarlet tunics who played as the Speaker’s Procession entered the Yard as well as 48 military children from the Voices of the Armed Forces Children’s Choir who recently made it through to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent. They sang their heartstring-tugging songs, ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘Stand Up’; a particularly poignant song which describes what it’s like to be a military child with a parent deployed in a conflict zone – and the overwhelming joy they experience when the parent returns home safely.
Also attending the ceremony were special guests from the 1st Battalion The Rifles who the Speaker met when he visited Cyprus earlier this year whilst the Battalion was deployed on Op Tosca, the UN Peacekeeping mission in Cyprus.
The Speaker thanked the military for ‘keeping us safe, and for keeping us going’ and praised the military for epitomising the sense of family and community wherever they are deployed. He said: “From liberating the Falkland Islands 40 years ago, to helping us through the pandemic, and even serving here in the House of Commons - the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force are always there for us in our hour of need, the bond they create with each other and the communities for whom they serve is one that should be celebrated.”
Across the rest of London, Flag raising ceremonies will take place throughout the week in many of the Boroughs. From Barnet in the North to Sutton in the South and from Bexley in the East to Uxbridge in the West, flags will fly over civic offices and landmarks to give thanks to the Armed Forces culminating in Armed Forces Day on Sat 25 June.
In Colchester, a fanfare of trumpets from British Army Band Colchester heralded Armed Forces Day. The Armed Forces Day flag was flown from the Town Hall as Colchester Borough Council joined local authorities and community groups across the country to show their support for the Armed Forces community, from serving personnel to veterans and cadets.
Armed Forces Day will be marked in Colchester with the free 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team and Colchester Garrison Show, taking place on Abbey Field on Saturday, 25 June. Building up to the dramatic finale of a combat demonstration, the event will showcase the skills and equipment of the town’s 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, the British Army’s global response force.
In the North of England, Whitby hosted the Army’s launch of Armed Forces Week.
This year’s Armed Forces Day National Event in Scarborough, on the 25 June, promises to be an action-packed day featuring the very best of the Armed Forces. The picturesque South Bay in in Scarborough will host military parades, musical performances from military and civilian bands, aerial flypasts from the Red Arrows and Battle of Britain memorial flight, parachute display teams and more.
Although the focus is on the National Day on Saturday each day of Armed Forces Week follows a special theme with events and parades taking place on each day in line with these themes.
Monday is the launch day and allows senior leaders across Defence and the wider Government to pay tribute to the UK’s Armed Forces and their contribution. Tuesday celebrates the Armed Forces and Sport; Wednesday celebrates the Reserves; Thursday looks at STEM, Equipment and Women in Engineering and finally Thursday is Operations Day, providing an insight into the operations which the Armed Forces have conducted in the past 12 months.
Elsewhere in the country, in Northern Ireland more than 20,000 people visited Rifle Park, home of Banbridge Rugby Club for Armed Forces Day which is traditionally celebrated a week earlier in Northern Ireland, whilst a military parade of 300 personnel were given a rapturous greeting as they marched through the streets of Wales' newest city, Wrexham.