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Medway Armed Forces Day held at Great Lines Heritage Park in Gillingham

By Chris Hunter

Heightened security didn’t put off thousands flocking to Medway’s Armed Forces Day to pay tribute to the work of servicemen and women, and enjoy a day of fun in the sun.

Beforehand, Chief Superintendent Alison Roden said police had reviewed security measures for major events and called on people to be vigilant but not alarmed as there was no specific threat.

But any fears had no impact on the crowds enjoying the celebration.

Twins June and May, who celebrated their 81st birthday last week, enjoying the day
Twins June and May, who celebrated their 81st birthday last week, enjoying the day

Former Medway mayor, Cllr Stuart Tranter, said while there was a notable police presence and extra security, it only served to make people feel safer. “They were fussy about where you parked and how you park, and we had to have special passes,” he said.

“There were also road blocks at the end to check each vehicle – manned by the army.

“The police were around as well; to my eye it looked like a higher police presence than in previous years.

Watch: The Armed Forces Day Parade

“There were also physical barriers to any vehicle getting into the area – big 4x4s in the way, so unless you were driving a tank you wouldn’t get in there.

“If you got some lunatic trying to drive through the crowd they wouldn’t be able to get through – they also might find a bullet before they got anywhere.

“It didn’t affect the atmosphere in the slightest – if it had any effect it just made everybody feel safer and made you feel a little bit more proud of the police and the armed services.

“I certainly felt very safe and I hope everybody else did.”

Armed Forces Day was held at the Great Lines Heritage Park in Gillingham
Armed Forces Day was held at the Great Lines Heritage Park in Gillingham

Among the many attractions enjoyed by the crowds were military vehicles, bridge-building displays, an assault course, a giant fun fair, veterans’ parade and the Beating Retreat finale celebrating the armed forces.

Run by Medway Council and the Royal School of Military Engineering, the event also included a Camp Bastion Afghanistan display, naval forces display area and a Royal Engineers’ trade village; while visitors were also able to look at historic vehicles and watch helicopters fly in.

Cllr Tranter added: “It was a fantastic day. As usual there’s two aspects to it – one, it’s an opportunity for everybody to be proud of the armed forces, meet the soldiers and cadets and others that have served, and learn about what they’re doing, and there’s the formal ceremony which is very moving.

Abbey Tutty with 24 Commando
Abbey Tutty with 24 Commando

“The other aspect is it was a lot of fun for the families. It went really well.

“Medway has a long and historic connection with the armed services.

“Many of our people served in the armed forces, whether it’s the navy, the sappers or the reserves – it’s in the blood.

“For Medway it’s part of who we are so it will always be important for that reason.”

For more photos, see this tomorrow's Medway Messenger.

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