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PICTURES and VIDEO: 30,000 attend Armed Forces Day 2012 in Plymouth

By NeilShaw  |  Posted: July 02, 2012

  • Red Arrows at Armed Forces Day 2012 by Gerry Lloyd

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CROWDS lined Plymouth’s streets and seafront as thousands joined in a huge celebration of the military.

An estimated 30,000 people flocked to the Hoe for the action-packed Armed Forces Day.

Click here to see all the pictures you have uploaded from Armed Forces Day

The eyes of the nation fell upon the city on Saturday as VIPs joined city people, service personnel and veterans for the festivities.

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A parade and Drumhead Service formed the centrepiece of the celebrations, which culminated in a spellbinding Red Arrows display.

Other crowd-pleasers included a live performance by the chart-topping Military Wives Choir and the rare chance to have a snoop around military vehicles.

Hi-tech fighter jets, tanks and helicopters invaded the Hoe to give the public a taster of forces life.

Service personnel told The Herald they were humbled by the bumper turnout.

“Plymouth has always been good to us,” said Staff Sergeant Marc Robson, of Citadel-based 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery.

“We’ve always had a good reception here returning from deployment. But this is country-wide, and that’s the great thing. We’ve got a great reception and it’s good to know people are behind us.”

The day began with a field gun display from the Sea Cadet Corps and a drill by the Air Training Corps.

Gunshots rang out in the sunshine, followed by military music, thanks to the Royal Marine Volunteer Cadet Corps Band.

Orders were then barked at youngsters from Morice Town Primary School, whose Year 5 and 6 pupils battled each other in a special field gun competition.

Crowd numbers began to swell just as the booming noise of an RAF Typhoon filled the sky.

More heart-stopping air displays followed moving scenes that saw more than 1,000 veterans, service personnel and cadets step off on the Armed Force Day Parade.

For many, the chance to march in front of their families was an emotional experience.

Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer Mike Bray was watched by wife Katrina and children Matthew, aged seven, and Lauren, five.

“They find all the Armed Forces stuff brilliant so having so much to do here is wonderful,” said the 35-year-old from Plymstock.

“It’s very difficult to gauge the level of support we have from the community when we’re on operations, but to see an event like this and the way this amount of people turning out is fantastic.

“Having this in your home town, it’s absolutely fabulous.”

One serviceman who had more reason than most to celebrate was Rifleman Luke Du Laic – the oldest infantry soldier currently serving in Afghanistan.

The Territorial Army reservist, who turns 45 next week, described himself as a “grandad” compared to the teenagers he works alongside in Helmand Province. A sculptor and photographer by trade, he paid tribute to their courage while on a short rest and relaxation break in his home city.

Rfn Du Laic will be returning to Afghanistan later this week, where he is one of 13 members of the Territorial Army’s 6th Battalion The Rifles currently fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with their regular army counterparts.

He said: “It’s great to be back in England. The TA is kind of in between both worlds, so it’s good for us to be appreciated.

“We have many young men there [in Afghanistan] and I thought they could benefit from my help – and it turns out I made a wise decision. I’m their grandad, I’m their daddy. Some of them, they’re boys; they’re not yet men.”

But he added: “They pull some incredible things out the bag.

“It’s astonishing what they can do when they’re given guidance and [are] driven themselves.”

Some troops managed to send videos home from the frontline, which were played alongside ‘thank you’ messages from city schoolchildren and businesses on a big screen.

Great-great grandfather John Ewings, 68, from North Prospect, was among the well-wishers.

He said: “I’m proud of this country. It’s still the greatest nation in the world and we have an Armed Forces to be proud of. If I can, I’ll shake the hands of every single one of them.”

Others had travelled from further afield to join in the fun. Louise Mayhew brought her Army-mad children Harvey, six, and Jack, eight, along from Peterborough. Both were sporting fearsome-looking war paint as they excitedly explored military vehicles.

Louise said: “I’ve come along so they can see all the planes and tanks – and also so I can see the Military Wives.”

Other music on the day came from Madness tribute band One Step Behind, the Salamanca Band of the Rifles, and a selection of some of the city’s top young musical talent.

Military nurse Flight Lieutenant Sydney Masawi, of the Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service, added: “It’s a brilliant day. It’s great to know that the public are behind us.”

As well as wife Millie and son Francis, the 40-year-old’s cousin Xavier Mukombe had travelled from Oxford for the day.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “The helicopters, the cars, the planes. There’s so much to see.”

Corporal Phil Ford, manning the 6 Rifles stand, added: “It’s incredible how many people are here.”


PRIME Minister David Cameron and the Earl of Wessex led the celebrations as Plymouth united to salute Armed Forces heroes.

A stunning parade of servicemen and women, veterans and cadets snaked through the city to mark Armed Forces Day.

Each and every armed service was represented among the 1,200-plus who marched from the Citadel – home to 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery – on Saturday.

They ranged from teenage cadets to veterans using mobility scooters and guide dogs, as well-wishers lined the streets waving flags and offering their applause.

Mr Cameron, Lord Mayor of Plymouth Cllr Michael Wright and Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, were among the dignitaries present for the grand parade. HRH The Earl of Wessex was also there, representing the Queen and Royal family.

The march was followed by an emotional Drumhead Service and the signing of Plymouth’s Armed Forces Covenant.

The Earl had arrived in the city the previous evening for a reception hosted by the Seafarers UK charity.

Mr Cameron flew in by helicopter on Saturday morning, landing at Brickfields while members of Plymouth Athletics Club trained.

He shouted and waved to athlete Cathryn Taylor, from Woolwell, who was among the first to spot him.

Arriving on the Hoe, the PM shook hands with crowd members who were pressed up against security barriers battling for a better view.

He later sat beside the city’s Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Chaz Singh, who is thought to have made history by becoming the first Sikh ever to lead prayer at a Drumhead Service.

Prince Edward spent around an hour in the ‘Veterans Village’ marquee, meeting forces heroes and charity volunteers.

Among them was Devonport-born Alfred Cross, a veteran of the Burma campaign, who had flown from his home in Australia to “meet old mates and remember others” – aged 86.

The Earl shared a joke with ‘evacuee’ James Dundar, aged seven, and asked four-year-old Katelyn Milburn, from Yelverton, if she had a good vantage point from her dad’s shoulders.

Security guards and armed police officers watched over every move made by the VIPs.

But Prince Edward looked relaxed as he shook countless hands on his way back to the Hoe, ready for HMS Argyll’s steam-past.

He stood beside a windswept Mr Cameron for the spectacle, which included a 21-gun salute.

Mr Cameron left the city shortly after the steam-past was over, greeting camera-wielding spectators with handshakes as he made his exit.

Speaking afterwards, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said: “People across the country from all ages and backgrounds have a deep respect and appreciation for the Armed Forces, and Armed Forces Day is an excellent opportunity for us all to let our men and women realise how much they are appreciated.

“It is from our society that our Armed Forces are drawn and from our society that we draw our strength.”

Cllr Wright added that it was “a great honour” for Plymouth to host Armed Forces Day.

The Lord Mayor praised the “courage, professionalism and the sacrifices” of service personnel in Plymouth and beyond.


THE fearless Red Arrows lit up greying skies to end Armed Forces Day in breathtaking style.

The RAF’s world-famous aerobatic display team dazzled the crowds with their gravity-defying show. The pilots trailed patriotic red, white and blue smoke as the day’s finale drew deafening applause.

For many, the air show was the highlight of the day.

The ear-splitting rumble of an RAF Typhoon kicked off the celebrations as one of the fighter jets performed an aerobatic display of its own. The machine was a bit too noisy for two-year-old Francis Masawi, from Plymstock, who covered his ears – much to the amusement of his dad, RAF nurse Flight Lieutenant Sydney Masawi.

The Second World War-era Spitfire, Sea Fury and Dakota planes also took to the skies for a Battle of Britain memorial flight.

Meanwhile, there were gasps from the promenade as a Royal Navy Lynx helicopter hurtled towards the ground – for show. And a Navy Sea King chopper demonstrated a sea rescue with the RNLI in the Sound.


PROUD grandparents Peter and Margaret Cox had a surprise run-in with a Royal when they refused to budge for the Prime Minister.

Prince Edward apologised to the 77-year-olds after they were ordered to give up a top spot on the Hoe.

The couple had arrived early to claim a bench with panoramic views of Plymouth Sound, ready to watch their grandson take part in HMS Argyll’s dramatic steam-past.

But, little did they know, the spot had been allocated to dignitaries including HRH Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex, and PM David Cameron.

And they were less than amused at being asked to budge by police officers and security guards when the entourage arrived.

After reluctantly moving to a different bench nearby, the Prince approached the couple to apologise for getting in the way.

“The police asked us to shift and I said ‘I’m not going to’,” Mr Cox explained.

“He said, ‘David Cameron is going there’ and I said, ‘I don’t care about David Cameron’.I wanted to see HMS Argyll, and we were comfy. But we compromised and sat on the end bench eventually.”

Mr and Mrs Cox, from Plympton, were allowed to remain inside a cordoned-off high-security area for the steampast.

Their grandson, Petty Officer David Cox, was taking part ahead of joining HMS Argyll next month.

The 29-year-old, who is married to HMS Raleigh drill instructor Chantell, has recently been serving on fellow Type 23 frigate HMS Kent.

He was not the only family member involved in Armed Forces Day.

The pensioners’ son Ian Cox took part in the parade as a former paratrooper.

Meanwhile, eldest son Royston used to be in the RAF and Mr Cox himself once worked on Royal Navy ships at Devonport Dockyard.

As soon as the steampast was over, an apologetic Prince Edward made a beeline for the couple.

“You didn’t have to move,” he told them. “I’m sorry about that. For some strange reason they’ve decided that you were in the wrong place. It wasn’t your fault.”

The Earl chatted with Mr and Mrs Cox for several minutes, asking them about their grandson and noting the “fantastic” view and weather.

Mr Cox said afterwards: “I certainly didn’t expect Prince Edward to come and speak to us. I was a bit stunned but he was very nice.”


THE Prime Minister has insisted he will not make a U-turn on his pledge to protect Devonport Naval Base, writes political reporter, Keith Rossiter.

David Cameron, in Plymouth for Armed Forces Day, highlighted the city’s strategic value and pledged that Britain would continue to have “a very robust naval programme”.

And, with an estimated 30,000 spectators on the Hoe, the Prime Minister said Plymouth “rose to the occasion magnificently”.

Devonport Naval Base was spared from swingeing defence cuts after a Herald-led campaign in the run-up to the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. At the time it appeared that one of the three naval bases – Plymouth, Portsmouth and Rosyth – might be under threat.

During his last visit, in February, Mr Cameron assured The Herald that Plymouth would not be just a graveyard for nuclear submarines.

However, since then the coalition Government has been accused of making a number of policy U-turns, including a decision to buy jump jets for the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald Mr Cameron was asked: “Can you assure us that you are going to stick by your pledge to preserve Devonport Naval Base?”

He said emphatically: “Yes of course. Plymouth is a very important naval base. It’s important that we don’t have all our naval eggs in one basket.

“The Government has backed that with actual decisions, in terms of making sure that the submarine refit [at Devonport] is going on.”

Reflecting on Plymouth as a host to Armed Forces Day, he said: “It has been a really magnificent day. Plymouth has risen to the occasion magnificently, as you would expect. There is no better place to have Armed Forces Day than Plymouth, which has got this fantastic long military and naval history. The sense of enthusiasm amongst the crowd for coming out and saying thank-you and paying respect has been absolutely palpable.

“Plymouth owes a lot to the armed forces and the armed forces owe a lot to Plymouth. I think it has been a very good coming together.

“The point of having Armed Forces Day as well as Remembrance Day is, on Remembrance Day we remember the sacrifice of people who have given their lives for freedom and to keep us free. Armed Forces Day is a day of celebration and thank-you. And it’s also about the relationship between the civilian population and the military.”

Mr Cameron praised the Community Covenant, signed at in a ceremony earlier in the day by representatives of the military and civic organisations including the city council, the university and the NHS.

“I’m very keen on these covenants,” Mr Cameron said. “The Government has given them legal backing, we’ve written them into the law. I thought the list of organisations that were backing the Community Covenant here was really impressive.”

Mr Cameron defended the decision to revert to Labour’s plans to acquire the jump-jet version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter instead of a conventional version of the aircraft for the new generation of aircraft carriers.

“We’ve had to make some difficult decisions but if you think of Britain’s naval future, we’re going to have ultra-modern aircraft carriers.

“We’ve got the Type 45 destroyers; we’ve got our hunter-killer submarines; we’ve got the replacement and updating of our nuclear deterrent.

“This is a very robust naval programme, and one that is now fully funded, fully affordable, and we have dealt with all the massive spending black holes that we were left with in the past.”

Mr Cameron added: “Whatever changes our forces are going through, their ability to protect this country and deploy on a range of operations across the globe remains. This has been demonstrated by the successful operation in Libya last year, significant military involvement in Olympic security and our ongoing commitments to counter-piracy, with Plymouth-based personnel playing a major role.”

If you have pictures you want to share, you can tweet @thisisplymouth, upload them at our gallery page or email nshaw@theplymouthherald.co.uk


Below you can replay our live coverage of the day's events.

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  • trashbag1  |  July 05 2012, 7:21PM
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  • lightweight65  |  July 02 2012, 9:18PM

    To quote David Cameron,"There is no better place to have Armed Forces Day than Plymouth, which has got this fantastic long military and naval history". Why then did I leave the event feeling slightly confused, along with feeling there was something very much missing from the day?? Perhaps it is linked in the statement ' long military history' of which the Royal Marines have been at the forefront of creating that history, would have been nice to see them march on behind their band in their right full place, flying their well deserved regimental colours. Their absence being remarked upon by many members of the audience, considering Plymouth is the head quarters for the royal marine commando brigade I am very disappointed and cant help but feel let down by the organisers. I trust in the future ALL serving personel will be involved to enable us to show our gratitude to their continual courage and honour.

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  • shakehead  |  July 02 2012, 12:50PM

    We had a great day on the Hoe, and the Red Arrows in full glory, however the HMS Argyll tour was a fiasco. We had booked tickets when they were released as I had 10 friends travelling from as far a field as Scotland for the weekend and we didnt want to miss the opportunity, so early did we book our allotted time, we had tickets numbered 1-10. Unfortunately for us we had booked the 11:30 slot and as we made our way their we received a call from another friend who had been waiting in the queue for 2 hours he was told there was no-one else being allowed on the tours even if they had tickets due to the overbooking. We were annoyed by this as it really isnt hard to arrange this! Our day had been planned around this and we had decided to miss the main parade in order to do the tour. Really wasnt impressed by this, time, money, effort and shoe leather wasted! However in true form adapt and overcome, we hot footed it up to the hoe, for an impromptu meeting with royalty and the PM which wouldnt happen if we had been on the tour, so one sky rains and the other has sunshine. Other than that what a great day and I think the peopl of Plymouth did our Vets and Serving personnel proud.

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  • cajohn  |  July 01 2012, 11:02PM

    I was most disappointed in the handling of the HMS Argyle fiasco. I got tickets to go on board the ship which was anchored out by the breakwater, three weeks beforehand, my tickets were numbered 44 to 60. We were told there were 700 tickets to be allocated. I was told in the Tourist Office that the boat would leave from Phoenix Wharf at 10. 30am and that we would be back by 11.30am. On Saturday we arrived on the Barbican with grandchildren at 9.45am. We had paid £4 to park for 3 hours. We were then told that the boat was not leaving from the Barbican but from Milbay Docks. We ran back to the car, gave our parking ticket to another grateful family and quickly drove over to Millbay. We then bought another parking ticket for 3 hours. As we walked up to the quay there was a very large crowd waiting, We joined the end of the queue. The first boat loaded up, it took 150 people. After waiting for 45 minutes we were told that there was only room for another 150 people on the second boat and that all the other people would not get on HMS Argyle. We left in disgust with our grandchildren,gave our second parking ticket to another family and went home, there was no point in staying as we would not have had a chance of finding a parking space nearer town. We did not see any of the events on the Hoe. Apparently the Tourist office should only have given out 300 tickets, they gave out 700. The Navy should have let all people with tickets numbered 1 to 300 on board, so that the people who applied weeks ago got priority. It was an absolute shambles, with a lot of disgusted parents and disappointed children who had qued for more than an hour only to be turned away. The Tourist Office should issue a public apology via the Herald and make some reparation, in the form of a free visit to the aquariam, or at the very least a free boat trip to anyone who hands in their unused tickets. I hope that the Captain of HMS Argyle has a very strong word with Plymouth city council and the Tourist office.

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  • renegade2009  |  July 01 2012, 9:49PM

    a great day had by all i had the chance to get a photo of davin cameron as he was leaving after bumpin into his gaurd got some great pic ,,,,

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  • trina2010  |  July 01 2012, 3:36PM

    A fantastic day really enjoyed it and a great turnout. Only down side the Royal family represented by a royal who has the least conection with the Military and inviting david cameron was an insult to all who serve and have served. Maybe he was there counting heads to see how many more jobs he could axe.

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  • niugnepyzarc  |  July 01 2012, 1:48PM

    All this in a country in which apparently forces personnel are discriminated against and not shown any respect.....well if you believe the tabloids anyway........events like this kind of disprove that myth eh?

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  • LucyLastick  |  July 01 2012, 7:39AM

    jannersontour: From the way you mangle the English language I'm not surprised you missed the boat.

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  • nickthompson  |  June 30 2012, 11:14PM

    "Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Today is an opportunity for everyone up and down the country to clearly show how grateful we are to all our brave servicemen and women for all that they do"------------------------------------And here are your P45s. JUDAS CAMERON.

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  • fwandy  |  June 30 2012, 9:29PM

    http://tinyurl.com/7qg7dru A few snippets of the Red Arrows on Plymouth Hoe. Such a shame that the cloud chose to come in then after a sunny day.

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