A HUGE procession helped Commonwealth Day go off in style in Portsmouth.
Representatives from 11 different High Commissions including Australia, the Bahamas, Fiji, Nigeria and St Kitts and Nevis were in Guildhall Square yesterday morning for the raising of the Commonwealth flag.
All 53 Commonwealth nations’ flags were carried out in procession into the square by schoolchildren, community groups, residents and representatives from the Royal Navy and RAF.
It was the first time local authorities and civic dignitaries, community groups and charities throughout the country have taken part in flag-raising events and ceremonies of dedication to mark the day.
Yesterday’s was the first in Portsmouth City Council’s timetable of events connected to the 70th anniversary of D-Day and 100 years since the beginning of the First World War.
The Vice Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson DL, delivered a message from the Queen.
In the message, the Vice-Lord Lieutenant for the county, said: ‘I’m pleased that so many people took part in the Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth initiative, which saw a record number of Commonwealth flags being raised on one day.’
He joined other dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Lynne Stagg, on the steps of the Guildhall.
After the Commonwealth flag was raised outside the council’s civic offices, entertainment was provided from groups including Portsmouth Military Wives Choir, Portsmouth Music Hub choir, traditional Indian and Bengali dancing and the Africappella choir.
Traditional Bengali dance was performance by Annisha Ghosh from the Portsmouth Bengali Community Association before an Indian dance solo performance by Samhita Foria who performed the Kautuvam.
Samhita is a member of the Prithvi Youth Dance Company in Portsmouth.
Following the event, Cllr Stagg told The News: ‘The Commonwealth is still important for our country.
‘The Queen always calls it the family and that is what it is.
‘The event has been fantastic. It’s so nice to have people of so many different backgrounds here to celebrate.’
The event was organised by the council as part of a national initiative.
Its aim was to celebrate the value of the Commonwealth by promoting inclusiveness and integrating diversity among cultures and communities.
Leader of the city council Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘This is the start of our year of marking of 70 years since D-Day and it’s important to remember that.
‘All of these countries sent troops to defend this country.
‘That is why celebrating the Commonwealth with the Queen is so important.
‘The number of troops from India in the first and second world wars was in the hundreds of thousands.
‘Without the support of these Commonwealth countries, we would have lost.’