Our area is lucky this year in that we’ve got two Armed Forces Days! On Saturday 24th of June 2018 there will be celebrations taking place in and around Lancaster Castle and then on Sunday 25th 2018 on Morecambe promenade and in the Winter Gardens.
More of a celebration than a commemoration AFD is a chance for Britain to celebrate the past achievements and continuing contribution made by the British Armed Forces to our way of life be it in wartime or in times when our nation is beset by natural disasters. Everyone is more than welcome to come along, show support and give thanks to the brave lads and lasses who never let us down.
“The British military is much, much more than a force that fights wars or protects our country,” explains Squadron Leader Brian Jefferson, retired RAF, “they are the people the country turns to when no one else can do the job. Green goddess fire engines have traditional fought fires during strikes, soldiers buried the poor animals effected by the foot and mouth crisis and when people needed rescuing or bridges needed building during the flood the winter before last it was the armed services who stepped in and got the job done.”
Set up originally by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008, and initially local former members of the Parachute Regiment were heavily involved. The Lancaster Military Heritage first got involved locally in 2010 with former Royal Navy Submariner, Tim Roberts, helping organise the events.
Events were initially just held at Lancaster Castle but after last year’s event it was agreed to try a two day, multi-site event and Morecambe sea front was suggested as the perfect second venue.
“These two days are an opportunity for the public to come along and enjoy a couple of interesting days whilst at the same time being able to say ‘thank you’ to the British Armed Forces,” explains Squadron Leader Jefferson, “it’s less focussed on commemoration, although there will be some stands that remember both world wars, with veterans of the former hopefully in attendance, and more about celebrating the quality and versatility of our forces because whenever there is a job to be done that no one else can do in this country, our armed forces step in and do a good, professional job with minimal fuss.”
But as well as a celebration the Armed Forces Days offer support for any military veterans that are currently in need, “although only a very small percentage of veterans do have welfare issues, there are some bearing the physical and mental toll of military service and these two events will include support for these people.”
Over the two days there are lots of things taking places, lots of old military vehicles, World War Two re-enactments, veterans in World War One uniforms, “but the events will also be supporting the brilliant work of the British emergency services, not only because they do an excellent job but because many ex-forces personnel tend to go into the emergency services when they retire.”
Squadron Leader Jefferson is an interesting character in his own right, spending sixteen years in the RAF as a pilot and then a further fourteen as a reservist, “flying is in my blood,” he explains, “and I spent the last eight years of my working life working as a commercial pilot out of Manchester Airport.”
According to Squadron Leader Jefferson, Lancaster Military Heritage Group is something of a unique institution, “it came about after the closure of the Bowerham Barracks in the late 1990’s,” he explains and was the brainchild of the late Major General Nigel St-George-Gribbon who wanted the loss of a permanent military regiment not to mean a total loss of a military presence in the area. The LMHG originally incorporated just the army but subsequently incorporated a tri-service organisation.
It’s quite a unique organisation and a brilliant idea by Major General St-George Gribbon, who was himself a brilliant man. Its aims are to forge strong, effective links between the military and civil communities to create a better understanding of the needs of serving and former military personnel. LMHG works with councillors and representatives, public and commercial organisations to create a better situation for the military. It’s a busy organisation with approximately 150 members.
Although our area is no longer home to any permanent armed forces it does have a very active veteran’s movement and a vibrant cadet service, along with the Lancaster Military Heritage Group and Armed Forces, Armed Forces Days 2017 are bound to be a resounding success, paying tribute and giving thanks to the heroes who always put the needs of the general public before their own.