Portsmouth veterans dealt 'disservice' and left ‘disappointed’ by ‘lacklustre’ Armed Forces Day at historic docks

VETERANS were dealt a ‘disservice’ and left ‘disappointed’ by a ‘lacklustre’ Armed Forces Day in Portsmouth at the weekend.

By Steve Deeks
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 2:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 2:24 pm

After being praised to the hilt for ‘doing veterans proud’ just a week earlier during the Falklands 40 commemorations, the city council came under fire for a ‘poor’ showing to its military contingent.

This was put down to ‘resourcing’ issues after the Falklands commemorations and events having to be pulled due to scaffolding on HMS Victory.

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Veterans from Leuven, Belgium, with AB Sam Kitchen and AB Amelia Kelly, both of HMS Nelson. Armed Forces Day at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 250622-19)

Veterans and military personnel arrived at the historic docks full of excitement before the mood quickly became deflated as many left within an hour.

The main gripes centred on a lack of activities with there only a handful of veterans’ stalls at the location by HMS Victory. Apart from a ‘fantastic’ junior Field Gun and a girl singing there was not much else to wet the appetite, veterans said.

And to add insult to injury a burger cost £8 and a pint £7.

Falklands navy veteran Barrie Jones, who spearheaded the project to honour those killed during the war, said: ‘I went down there and it was disappointing. After the brilliant job the council did for Falklands 40 it was a let down.

A field gun crew from Meon Junior School, Portsmouth. Armed Forces Day at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 250622-17)

‘The kids did a fantastic job but after that there was nothing. There were about five veteran outreach tents and a girl singing with nowhere to sit. And two burgers cost me £16.

‘I was in and out within 45 minutes. There was nothing to excite. It was lacklustre and poor. They had two great big carrier ships there they could have done something with. They could have had marching bands and displays.

‘The Falklands 40 probably overshadowed the planning for it and that’s why it fell by the wayside. They need to put it back on Southsea Common.’

Chris Purcell, who survived the sinking of HMS Sheffield during the Falklands, said: ‘I was expecting a lot more. Falklands 40 did us proud but I feel like veterans were let down on Armed Forces Day.

‘They could have had a Royal Marine marching band but there was none of it.’

Labour councillor George Fielding, shadow spokesman for culture and development, said: ‘The event has had successful years at the docks but this was a particularly poor showing and disservice to veterans and serving personnel.

‘As the home of the Royal Navy we should be on top of things and hold our veterans in the highest regard. I think the planning was a bit lacklustre.’

Councillor Steve Pitt, member for culture and development, said events conspired against the council but announced: ‘We will be going back to the common next year.’

He continued: ‘We decided due to the limited resources we had available we needed to focus maximum effort on making sure Falklands 40 was properly commemorated. The city did an outstanding job making sure that happened.

‘That left us with resourcing issues delivering Armed Forces Day a week later. We did the best we could.

‘The event was slightly compromised by the final decision on the scaffolding of HMS Victory coming very late on. It meant we had to remove some of the events we had planned because we didn’t have access to a full arena space.

‘We understand we need to do a much bigger event next year.’

SEE ALSO: Update on crash