Thousands enjoy annual Armed Forces Day show

Armed Forces Day in Alexandra Park. Pic by Frank Copper
Armed Forces Day in Alexandra Park. Pic by Frank Copper

HASTINGS people showed their continuing support for the armed forces by turning out in their thousands at the annual Armed Forces Day show.

An estimated 5,000 attended the event on Sunday, July 1, organised by the Hastings and St Leonards Veterans Association, in Alexandra Park.

Despite an initial early downpour of rain, the sun shone for the rest of the day, with families visiting the largest number of stalls ever seen at the show. The event was opened at 10am by Mayor Alan Roberts, accompanied by the deputy mayor Bruce Dowling.

The parade at this year’s show was led by the Kohima Band of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment. Making their fourth appearance at the show were 21 Battery of 47 Regiment Royal Artillery, a unit from the Royal Army Medical Corps who brought along a mobile field hospital, which proved popular with families, and a unit from 56 Signals Squadron led by Captain Steven Hall. A drumhead service was held during the parade and was conducted by the association’s chaplain, the Reverend Robert Featherstone, whose son is currently serving in Afghanistan. The inspection of the parade and the salute was made by Major General John Moore-Bick CBE RE, who represented the Queen on the day. During the service presentations were made. Peter Cloke of St Leonards, escorted by Martin Prince, was presented with his HM Armed Forces Veterans Lapel Badge and certificate of thanks from the Secretary of State for Defence by General Moore-Bick.

Bryan Hunter, a former chairman of the association was presented with the Presidents’ Award for service during 2011.

The general presented a framed certificate of honorary life membership to Shaun Pelling, who commanded the parade.

Much to his surprise, an award of honorary life membership was then given to the general by association president Honorary Freeman, Pam Brown OBE. The general said he was delighted to be made an honorary life member and looked forward to supporting the association in the future.

Some of the arena events, such as the annual field gun competition had to be cancelled at the last minute but organisers say the competition will be back next year and is set to be even better than before, as the association will be acquiring its own equipment for the event.

The Acromax gymnastic display team had a stunning display of their skills, followed by the annual tug of war between last year’s winners, the Royal Artillery, and the Royal Army Medical Corps, who hoped their strategy of having a team of ladies would give them the edge.

But despite pulling the Royal Artillery team to the floor on the second pull, the gunners, affectionately known as ‘long range snipers’, fought back by winning the third and final pull. The teams were rewarded with a crate of beer each. A Winkle Club stand to guess the weight of the group’s sculpture in Rock-a-Nore attracted visitors.

Association secretary Richard Vallery-Peters, who organised the event, said: “It was a fantastic day despite one or two disappointments and we have had the largest attendance than ever before and the largest number of displays and stalls we have ever had, with some even wanting to book in for next year already. I just don’t know where I am going to find the extra space.

“I would like to thank all the businesses in the town for their continued and valued support for this event, French’s Waste Services for the waste skips, Broxbourne Hire for transporting much of the equipment, Michael Rees, Tony Court-Holmes, Diane Frazer, Stuart Murphy, Roy Gunn, Eileen Cooter, Jim Hoath, Steve and Samantha Walsgrove, Howard Hopkins and Maria Samson and her team from the British Red Cross, Graham Evans, Southern Water and it goes without saying the members of the armed forces and the wonderful people of Hastings and St Leonards who turned out and showed their support. I hope everyone enjoyed themselves and look forward to seeing you again next year.”