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Everything shipshape for Medway's Armed Forces Day celebrations in Gillingham

Thousands are expected to turn out on Saturday for this year’s Armed Forces’ Day on the Great Lines in Gillingham.

Medway hosted the first national Armed Forces Day when 30,000 people turned up to recognise both past and present services’ personnel, and the event has been close to the collective heart of the Towns ever since.

Armed Forces Day 2013
Armed Forces Day 2013

The event is always popular because of our military and naval heritage but it has particular significance in 2014 which marks the centenary of the start of the First World War, the 70th anniversary of D-Day and, in December, the expected return of British troops from Afghanistan.

Medway Council is funding the event and offering free admission. Planning has been going on since October in order to ensure an action-packed day.

It will include a 400-strong services parade, led by the Band of the Royal Engineers, arena displays, have-a-go events and a fun fair.

Families will be able to visit the Royal School of Military Engineering trades village, offering activities like mine detecting and assault courses. There will also be an opportunity to see a gun run, an Army versus Civvies tug-o-war and cadet drill displays.

Sapper James Dobbs helps Lewis Machray-Bruce, seven, use a hand-held metal detector
Sapper James Dobbs helps Lewis Machray-Bruce, seven, use a hand-held metal detector

Event co-ordinator Bill Fowler is confident the celebration could attract more than 15,000 people.

He said: “Medway has always taken this event to heart because of its military links and historic dockyard and the incredible can-do attitude of the forces makes this one of the easiest and most pleasurable events to organise.

“They are coming up with a tank full of divers that youngsters’ can talk to with walkie-talkies, and are transporting in everything needed to stage a bridge building competition in the main arena.

“It’s going to be amazing.”

Retired Army major Maurice Bernard, 79, from Chatham, who was awarded the British Empire Medal in this month’s Queen’s honours list, will be among veterans attending the parade.

He said: “I am looking forward to being there. It is a deeply humbling experience.”

Armed Forces Day flag
Armed Forces Day flag

Rodney Chambers, leader of Medway Council, said: “Medway has strong links with the Armed Forces and since that first event in 2009 – which Medway was very proud and pleased to have hosted – we have continued to mark the day each year.

“We were delighted with the success of the event on the Great Lines last year and we will continue showing our support for the magnificent work the Armed Forces do for us, and this is a great way to honour them.”

Kent branch SSAFA members. Picture: James O'Jenkins
Kent branch SSAFA members. Picture: James O'Jenkins

Armed Forces Day commemorates the service of men and women in the British Armed Forces.

First known as Veterans’ Day and introduced in the UK in 2006, it became known as Armed Forces Day in 2009. Chatham’s Historic Dockyard was chosen to host the first national Armed Forces Day celebration that year.

In 2014 the national event is in Stirling, Scotland.

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