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Thousands turn out to show respect for armed forces in Medway

By Chris Hunter

Most funfairs have a rifle range – but what you don’t normally get to fire guns like these.

Medway’s Armed Forces Day brought crowds to the Great lines Heritage Park in Gillingham on Saturday to celebrate those who serve the country in the field of battle – past and present.

As well as the standard funfair rides, youngsters also got the chance to try their hand at firing – thankfully unloaded – machine guns, and operate heavy diggers used by the Airbourne Engineers.

There were also displays of Gurkha knife dancing, Naval gun-running and a tug-of-war competition.

Labour leader Vince Maple and his father Chris, a Royal Navy veteran of 23 years who served in the Falklands, were among those enjoying the day.

Cllr Maple said: “It’s an amazing coming together to recognise the importance of the veterans and those members of the armed forces currently serving. I’m proud of all the veterans, but particularly my dad.”

He said he’d never been tempted to follow in his father’s footsteps, but added: “That’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful for those that put themselves forward to represent our country.”

And he said public backing of the military was unwavering in Medway, adding: “The one thing that’s always clear to me, whatever people’s views of political decisions or reasons for conflicts, the public support in Medway for the men and women serving the country is like nothing else.”

The Armed Forces and Veterans Parade in Gillingham
The Armed Forces and Veterans Parade in Gillingham

Bill Fowler, a member of the event management team, said: “I’m really pleased. The number of people that have turned out is tremendous and the mood and atmosphere is marvellous.

“The whole event harks back to another generation when everyone came out for these events and had fun.

“It’s to show off to the public what the Royal Engineers do – to get them to meet the troops and to talk about what they get up to.

“It’s a bringing together of everyone. They’re all from the same community.”

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