David Cameron today described the nation’s military as “the pride of Britain” as he praised their role in defending the country on a visit to Dartmouth.
The Prime Minister took the salute at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where nearly 70 cadets passed out following their 30 weeks’ training.
But the balmy conditions on the south Devon coast proved too much for one cadet, who fainted during the service a short distance from – but apparently out of view of – the Prime Minister.
In front of the cadets’ proud family and friends, the Prime Minister described his personal gratitude to the armed forces.
Mr Cameron said: “As Prime Minister I get to spend quite a lot of time with our armed forces, and I can just tell you this – there is nothing that makes me more proud of our country, of what we stand for in the world, or what we are capable of doing, than our armed forces.
“You are the pride of Britain, and to share this moment with you today is very special.”
He also told those present in the magnificent setting overlooking the Dartmouth ferry port that he has his own keepsake of Britain’s military heritage.
He said: “A shell casing from HMS Liverpool sits in my office in Number 10 Downing Street; it was the last fired in anger in the Libya campaign, and it is a permanent reminder to me of the Royal Navy and its work to defend freedom.
“The words carved into the front of this imposing building remain as meaningful today as they did 350 years ago: It is on the Navy, under the provenance of God, that our peace and prosperity depend.
“You are quite simply becoming part of the Navy with the greatest history in the world. It is a vital part of our heritage.
“Our ships, submarines and naval air squadrons carry battle honours that literally span every part of the planet.”
More than 250 Royal Navy cadets were involved in the ceremony, with the first phase passing out under clear blue skies today.
Commanding Officer Captain Jerry Kyd said the cadets had displayed “commitment and courage” during a demanding training course.
He added: “We are delighted to have the Prime Minister as the guest of honour at the parade to celebrate the success of this latest group of officer cadets.”
Mr Cameron is a regular visitor to the South West, and this year added his support to Britain’s service personnel by attending the Armed Forces Day in Plymouth.
However, his government has also come under fire for defence spending cuts. The MoD is in the process of axing 25,000 armed forces personnel and 29,000 civilian staff by 2015 in the biggest round of cuts to the military since the end of the Cold War.
The reductions, set out in the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, are intended to reduce costs by £4.1 billion as part of the drive to plug a £38 billion “black hole” in the defence budget.