Armed Forces Day and Other Matters - By Major General David Shaw CBE
Over a month ago
Veterans' Day was first observed in 2006 in the United Kingdom and then in 2009 the focus and name of the event changed to Armed Forces Day. Rather than only commemorate veterans, it became a day when the public in UK could show their appreciation for all the men and women in the British Armed Forces serving or retired, full time or part time. You may have taken part in one of these days, either parading while serving in the armed forces, as a veteran, as a cadet or as part of a service charity – or perhaps as a member of the public showing your support.
I have been involved in a number of these days and particularly when I was based in York and Edinburgh. In those days, the armed forces were very much in the public eye as troops were heavily involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. I felt sympathy for some of the regular troops as they had such demanding training and operational programmes, that it seemed mean to pull them away from their families for another weekend ‘duty’. Of course, the support and warm welcome that the communities gave the troops usually made it all worthwhile.
I would be interested to know your views and experiences of Armed Forces Day, you can get in touch HERE
The national Armed Forces Day event in 2011 was held in Edinburgh. A broad variety of people in uniform marched past the dignitaries between the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament Building.
[Scottish Parliament Building, Photo by David Shaw]
Many service chiefs and politicians descended on the city and the then Prime Minister; David Cameron, took time to visit and talk to a wide variety of the military ‘family’. His presence was much appreciated. I think it was on that occasion that the then Chief of the General Staff, General Sir David Richards, took time to chat to, and evidently amuse, a couple of cadets.
[CGS, Gen Sir David Richards and Cadets in 2011, Photo by Mark Owens/MoD 2010]
I admire the cadet organisation and was a cadet myself. While there are some detractors, I believe anyone who is familiar with cadet force activities, will attest to the benefit that young people gain from the life skills and qualifications they work hard to achieve. Some join the forces afterwards, having usually decided even before they joined the cadets that that is what they want to do, and those who go on to other careers take these benefits with them too. It was Octavia Hill, born in 1838, who had the farsightedness to initiate both the cadet forces and the National Trust; I wonder if she realised how enduring both organisations would be?
While I was based in York in 2003, I accepted an invitation to talk at the local Brewers and Pub Owners Association – who wouldn’t! This was an opportunity for me to explain to an audience of 60 or so influential people what the forces were doing on overseas operations. This was considered part of the MOD’s communication campaign and while I got a free lunch, I had to sing for it! The most interesting aspect of the lunch was probably not my talk, but my host’s recent streak of luck. His brewery was called Timothy Taylor and everyone he introduced me to at this event ribbed him about some interesting publicity he’d had that week. Apparently Madonna had recently been on the Jonathan Ross show and had made several mentions of her favourite ale, Timothy Taylor’s “Landlord” brew – this was much to JR’s astonishment and he kept returning to the subject with Madonna to check that her interest in ale was genuine – and much to Timothy Taylor’s delight!
I have digressed slightly, but return to Armed Forces Day as there is a link between the two subjects. It is all about keeping the forces in the eye and mind of the public. While operations are raging, the media gives our service people significant coverage and usually Tommy Atkins’ work is appreciated. But it is during the quieter periods, between operations, when in some people’s eyes the forces start becoming an unnecessary expense and there is less obvious support for them. We are now in one of those quieter periods and I note from election material that, in spite of the ominous threats we have to peace nowadays, reductions in the forces, including the Royal Marines and Army, are not out of the question. We must ensure that we take every opportunity to remain visible and thus remind people why we are needed. Continuing to celebrate Armed Forces Day will help us to achieve this.
There are a couple of special parts to Armed Forces Day that I want to bring to your attention. One is the ‘Uniform to Work Day’, when members of the Reserve are encouraged to wear their uniforms to their civilian workplaces. Reserves Day is on 21 June this year, so see if you can spot a reservist in uniform and tell me, or even send me a picture, perhaps? And if you are a reservist, why would you not wear your uniform to work?
Send me your pictures and I’ll post them on FR’s Facebook page, you can get in touch HERE
[Uniform to Work Day, Photo by Petty Officer Airman (Photographer) Owen Cooban, Crown copyright]
Another amusing Armed Forces Day activity is to pay tribute to the armed forces by sending in a picture of you saluting them to #SALUTEOURFORCES on Twitter (and Facebook and email). If you have forgotten how to salute, or want to learn from scratch, take a look at this link: https://www.armedforcesday.org.uk/get-involved/saluteourforces/