The Army will be flying the flag for more than seventy nations at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony this evening and at almost three hundred medal ceremonies taking place during the Games.
The 138-strong tri-service team of ceremonial flag-raisers comprising 67 Army personnel, 36 members of the Royal Air Force and 35 from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines have been training for this prestigious honour at Nesscliffe training camp in the West Midlands.
They have completed refresher training in basic drill and the art of ceremonial flag-raising. The training led by the Army School of Ceremonial has also included rigorous dress inspections to ensure their appearance and bearing will be of the highest standard when they march out in full view of an international audience.
Colour Sergeant Blackstock was one of the team from the All-Arms Drill Wing who delivered the training and also directed the rehearsals of the drill manoeuvres for the funeral of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.
He said: “There is an enormous sense of pride amongst the personnel taking part. I’m happy they are all at the required standard and I will be watching them with pride when they are on TV.”
“We’re proud to be raising the flags of the winning contestant’s nations, integrating with the Games security efforts, even representing on the field in a number of sporting disciplines, and I wish every success to our competing Service men and women. Brigadier Matt Pierson
Amongst those flag-raisers taking part is Sergeant Bowden who serves with 5 Force Support Battalion REME. He is the fifth generation in his family to have a military career. He said:"I did the venue security at the London Olympics in 2012 and I was quite envious of the personnel doing the ceremonial, so I jumped at the opportunity to take part at these Games.”
Sergeant Bowden is one of 17 team leaders who will lead the flag bearers out into the venues to raise the flags of the gold, silver and bronze medal-winning athletes’ countries. He said: “I will be out front giving the orders to the flag team and as a team leader I have to know them well and work to their strengths.
“All eyes will be on us and it is about staying composed. It’s not just the people in the stadium, it’s the international television audience who will also be watching. I’m sure I will feel a lot of pride and nerves, but I have a lot of confidence in my team - they know what they are doing.”
In addition to the military personnel on ceremonial duties, a Venue Assistance Force (VAF) has been formed to support the security programme being led by West Midlands Police. The VAF is made up of both regulars and reservists, including soldiers from 4 Regiment Army Air Corps and the Grenadier Guards.
The Commander of the military deployment, Brigadier Matt Pierson said: “I am delighted to be leading the UK Defence contributions to the CWG 22. We have worked closely with the organising committees, West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council to be certain that the Armed Forces can play a small but important part in this fantastic international sporting event.
“We’re proud to be raising the flags of the winning contestant’s nations, integrating with the Games security efforts, even representing on the field in a number of sporting disciplines, and I wish every success to our competing Service men and women. Sport, health and fitness are core elements of the Armed Forces, so this great event aligns naturally to who we are and what we do.”
The Army has four soldiers representing their countries at the Games. Lance Corporal Reid is representing Scotland in the women’s boxing. In the Judo Corporal Hawkes will represent Northern Ireland and Lance Corporal Ahiavor will represent Ghana, while Corporal Rogers will run the marathon on behalf of Gibraltar.