Thousands celebrate Armed Forces Day in Cardiff
Thousands bathed in the sunshine as Armed Forces Day provided a spectacular show of colour in Cardiff today.
Launched in 2009, the event is now into its fifth year and featured a parade of more than 1000 serving personnel through the heart of the city centre before an afternoon of family entertainment in nearby Cooper’s Field.
Celebrating the commitment of servicemen and women past and present, the parade was attended by the Leader of Cardiff Council, Councillor Heather Joyce, the Lord-Lieutenant of South Glamorgan, Dr Peter Beck and The First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas who took the salute of the troops at Cardiff Castle.
Speaking of the importance of Armed Forces Day, the head of the Navy, said: “It’s become more and more important, because I think the country has a very clear sense of the duty that servicemen make for their nation.
“The Armed Forces, of course, has its tragedy, its sadness and its sacrifice, that’s exemplified by some of the scenes we’ve seen from Wootton Bassett, but there’s a community of commitment and that family, through Armed Forces Day, has an opportunity to meet the public and be seen in their uniforms, and we’re very proud of that.”
As part of the day, nine new army recruits from Cardiff and the surrounding area swore an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen as part of their official entry into a career with the British Army.
The British Army is currently running a nationwide recruitment campaign titled ‘Step Up’ to offer 10,000 jobs to soldiers and officers over the next year.
One of the new intake, James French from Barry, who is joining the Royal Welsh Regiment, has already proved himself a hero by rescuing a family of four from drowning at Ogmore beach last year.
The RNLI said that the family would not have made it without the 21-year-old’s quick thinking. Through this and the aspiring soldier’s charity work through his local rowing club, he was invited to run with the Olympic torch in Barry last summer.
James’ mum Debbie, 55, said: “I am very proud of James. Being in the Army is something he’s always wanted to do since he was young – through the scouts and the Army Cadets.
“I have reservations, but I remember the day when he came back from his assessment with the biggest beaming smile and a thumbs up and that’s what I have to remember when he’s facing the consequences of joining the Army.”
“But it’s lovely to be here at Armed Forces Day and seeing these people being recognised for their diligence and bravery.”
Soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the entertainment at Cooper’s Field, which included displays by the South Wales Police Dogs, Cadet Field Gun crews and a Semaphore Display by Swansea Sea Cadets, were a mix of service families past and present.
Stephen Manley, 47 from Llandough, a Territorial Army soldier for the last 29 years, who has seen active service in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan said: “It means a hell of lot for me to be here, especially as it means you can bump into people you haven’t seen for years.
“It’s nice to see the veterans and it’s nice to see the cadets, which is good for all the families with kids who are here today.”
Russ Evans, 52, from Cardiff, who was formerly in the RAF, commented: “It is important that the public come to support our Armed Services because you can’t fault any of the servicemen and service women for the job they do.”
Theresa Davies, 46, from Pontypridd, whose 25-year-old son Martin is in the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh explained how difficult it was for a mother with a son in the Army.
“Martyn has been in seven years and has seen active service in Iraq, and of course there’s been lots of emotions for me and his family, there’s been concern and worry but we all support him.
“That’s why Armed Forces Day is really important and sends a positive message about the work that the services do.”