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The First Armed Forces Day 2009

Event, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Wet Scarborough Weather Doesn't Dampen Armed Forces Day

It literally rained all day in Scarborough on 21st June 09, on this the first ever Armed Forces Day. With only occasional and short dry periods, organisers with worried looking faces, concerned themselves with the terrible thought that all the organisation and hard work, might be a complete wash out.

Such weather conditions would usually see the sea front on South Bay a bit quiet to say the least. But by noon, the immense number of people walking along the promenade told a completely different story. Around 50,000 people turned out and braved the wet weather, many with umbrellas and waterproofs staying fast and demonstrating their loyalty to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces.

Scarborough's 'South Bay' became a militarised zone for the day with a grand display of military hardware, marching bands, parades and military salutes.

Even in the rain, a long queue of children lined up on the Foreshore Road sea front, to take their turn in the commander's seat of a Warrior Tank.

A display of machine guns and grenade launchers tantalised lads both young and old, whilst other youngsters climbed the two climbing towers - erected amongst a display of military vehicles, at the shore end of the West Pier.

The most popular attraction was definitely the march past, led by the Yorkshire Volunteers Regimental Band and the Royal Scots Guards, with the Lord Mayor of Scarborough taking the salute.

Earlier in the day, veterans of various campaigns received medals, presented by local dignitaries including Graham Maxwell, the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, and Major General Michael Charlton-Weedy CBE, president of the Royal British Legion's North Yorkshire county committee.

Other popular exhibits were the paint ball shoot out, where people again queued all day.

And now etched in the Yorkshire Regiment's sporting - if not (Military History) the 'Tug of War' in which the Yorkshire Regiment beat no less than the Parachute Regiment. One of the troopers from the York's told me: "I'm delighted to have been on the winning team and beating the Paras is a rare delight."

Some of the itinerary had to be cancelled, a strong sea fret reduced visibility to less than 20 ft, resulting in the cancellation of the parachute drop onto the beach and the abseil down the side of the lighthouse was also called off.

Even though the rain hardly ceased, everyone seemed to be in high spirits and even in the heaviest showers all appeared to be having a great time.

On one of those rare occasions which in it's own way kind of sums up British spirit, people cheered and waived union flags, then every now and then headed for shelter in the heavier rain, waiting in anticipation for the opportunity to get back out in to the open at the first sign of a respite in the weather,

Local shops, cafes and bars were offering discounts to forces both serving and veterans alike.

Following the march past members of the Armed Forces, dignitaries and civilians gathered outside the RNLI lifeboat station for a 2 minute silence in remembrance of our fallen. Ended by a single shot from a light artillery gun.

Many of the people I spoke with over the course of the day had travelled from many parts of Yorkshire including Leeds, Ripon, Bradford and Sheffield. And there was even a family from Wigan, who were taking a holiday based in Goathland, they made the trip into Scarborough to show their support. One of the resounding statements that kept coming to light is that people were not only there to support our forces, but were glad to be given the opportunity to show their support. One lady who had travelled down from Redcar told me that she was tired of the anti's always being given the limelight, "We should do much more of this." she said.

There is indeed talk of doing it all over again next year and if this first year's turn out is anything to judge by, then it's a complete no brainer, it was a great day, great for the forces, great for the people and great for Scarborough and North Yorkshire.

Report first published: 28 June 2009





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