Portsmouth hopes to stage huge event for Armed Forces Day next year after Covid curtailments
SUBDUED tributes to Britain’s military heroes will be a thing of the past next year, city chiefs have vowed, as they aim to celebrate Armed Forces Day like never before.
For the second year running, the national event – commemorating service personnel past and present – was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Small-scale flag-raising ceremonies were held during the weekend, with Portsmouth’s event being streamed online.
And a scaled back service at the National Memorial Arboretum was also staged on Saturday, attended by politicians, royalty and about 100 veterans.
But leaders hope 2022’s event will be a chance to finally celebrate in style, without the looming spectre of the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far plagued event globally for 18 months.
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: ‘Portsmouth always does events like Armed Forces Day particularly well but obviously the past year has been extremely difficult.
‘We have got to try and get to the national Armed Forces Day event in Portsmouth. Next year is obviously in Scarborough.
‘But we have got fantastic attractions and fantastic people. We have got to make sure it comes to Portsmouth some time in the future.
‘Constituents can rest assured that I will try tirelessly to bring the Armed Forces Day national commemorations to Portsmouth, the heart and home of the Royal Navy.’
Veteran Mark Smith, 60, is chairman of the HMS Hermes Association, having served on the aircraft carrier during the effort to retake the Falklands Island.
He said the past year had been tough for fellow survivors of the conflict, who have had anniversary reunions axed.
The former sailor said many Falklands veterans would now be looking to head to Portsmouth to mark the 40th anniversary of the conflict – and hoped it would be combined with a bumper Armed Forces Day celebration.
‘It’s important that we have to do something to mark the sacrifices of all those in the armed forces because unless we do that kind of thing, we will forget,’ he added. ‘I’d definitely love to see a bigger Armed Forces Day commemoration next year.’
Councillor Frank Jonas, Lord Mayor of Portsmouth – who attended the flag raising ceremony in Guildhall Square with naval base commander, Commodore Jeremy Bailey – said it was vital the city marked its military heroes.
‘We’ve always been regarded as a military city and it means a lot to us, with our connections especially to the Royal Navy, the army in the past and the Royal Air Force at Thorney Island,’ he said.
‘It means a lot to us because we remember what they do for us: they stand in danger. While we stay at home, they’re representing us or trying to keep the peace throughout the world…Armed Forces Day is important to us.’
Similar services were staged in Gosport and Havant.
A small show of military vehicles was also on show outside Southsea’s D-Day Story museum on Saturday.