UK

Armed Forces Day events across UK honour military

Thousands of people in towns and cities across the UK have shown their support for the work of military personnel.

Cardiff hosted Armed Forces Day, with some 350 other events elsewhere, and the Queen hailed the "professionalism and courage" of forces personnel.

It follows a week in which nine UK service personnel serving in Afghanistan have died, taking the death toll since the mission began to 308.

Edinburgh has been named as the host of next year's UK Armed Forces Day events.

Organisers said the annual event had been established to give people the chance to show support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community, including serving troops, service families, veterans and cadets.

Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent docked at Cardiff so those on board could take part in the main events.

More than 50,000 people, including Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and Armed Forces Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, attended the celebrations in Cardiff.

The Queen sent a message of support and said: "The men and women of our Armed Forces have always been admirable examples of professionalism and courage.

"Then as now, they perform their duties in often the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances, both at home and overseas."

The parade included representatives from all three services, together with veterans of conflicts including World War II and the Falklands.

Hazel Hunt, 50, of Abergavenny, Gwent, was among the crowds in Cardiff.

Her son Pte Richard Hunt, 21, of 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, was killed last year but Mrs Hunt said the parade was a "comfort" to her and those taking part were "ordinary people who do an extraordinary job".

Capt Jimmy Carroll of the Queen's Dragoon Guards said the parades gave the soldiers a boost.

"When men and women walk through the streets in uniform like this it makes them feel 10ft tall.

"The guys out in Afghanistan know that people are out marching today and that the crowds are out.

"They know that they can come home and come back to massive public support. It is exactly like being a rock star."

Fly-pasts by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the Red Arrows and Helicopter Formation also took place while other cities which hosted events included Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Plymouth, Nottingham, Bristol and Manchester.

Elsewhere 14 servicemen and women were invited to watch the tennis at Wimbledon from the Royal Box at Centre Court.

The crowd gave the group a standing ovation as they prepared to watch Serena Williams' third round clash against Dominika Cibulkova.

Further celebrations will be held on Sunday.

Thousands of people were in Edinburgh as the Rt Hon George Grubb, Lord Lieutenant and Lord Provost of the Scottish capital, said it was a "tremendous honour" for the city to host the celebrations next year.

Gen Sir David Richards, the head of the Army, said he felt "humbled" by the turnout in Edinburgh and the day was extremely important for the troops.

In the south of England the date coincided with an annual Tankfest event in Dorset, at which the Royal Armoured Corps carried out a demonstration of counter-insurgency operations for the public.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the nation had a "duty to support our Armed Forces for all they do for us".

He added: "Members of the Armed Forces, both past and present, have made great sacrifices in the name of our country, but these men and women do not ask for sympathy, they ask for your support.

"That's why on Armed Forces Day, we need to give our Armed Forces a collective round of applause."

'Morale boosting'

Shadow defence secretary Bob Ainsworth said the day - introduced under the previous Labour government - was an opportunity for people to recognise the "achievements and sacrifices of our outstanding servicemen and women and veterans".

Cpl Chris Dickinson, who is currently in Afghanistan, said the event was appreciated by those serving overseas.

"Obviously it boosts morale for the troops and for the lads out here, so it means a lot to all of us."

Meanwhile, anti-war protesters said they were going to use the date to launch six days of action, which they say will challenge army recruitment and the war in Afghanistan.

Activities planned included protests and street theatre outside London's three Army Contact Points in Bromley, Hounslow and Dalston.

A five-day walk will also be held from London to the military prison in Colchester where soldier Joe Glenton is currently being held for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, as well as a rally outside the prison on 1 July.

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