This year Northern Ireland Armed Forces Day took place in Larne on Saturday 17 June 23. Armed Forces Day has been observed on the last Saturday of June since its inception, with Armed Forces Day in Northern Ireland taking place the Saturday prior.
Formerly known as Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day was established as an annual celebration of the contributions of the men and women both past and present of the British Armed Forces and is held each year at the end of June throughout the United Kingdom. The name was changed from Veterans Day which was originally established in 2006 to what we know now as Armed Forces Day in 2009. Armed Forces Day aims to ensure the contribution of veterans is never forgotten and focuses on celebrating living current/ex servicemen & women, service families and cadets, whereas Remembrance Day (11th November each year) focuses on honouring the dead. The event is organised to share with the public the purpose, breadth and scope of the Armed Forces and is a celebratory experience between service personnel past and present.
On Saturday 17th June, the Veterans Commissioner and his team supported Armed Forces Day NI in Larne, hosted this year by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. The day included a parade involving serving personnel, veterans and cadets led by the Band of the Royal Irish Regiment, a Drumhead Service and a 21 Royal Gun Salute to mark The King’s official birthday. A number of military displays and flypasts by an RAF Poseidon (The RAF’s new submarine hunter that replaced the Nimrod) and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster provided much excitement in addition to entertainment for all the family. The day drew to a close with Beating Retreat with the Band, Bugles, Pipes and Drums of the Royal Irish Regiment.
The Commissioner and his team had the opportunity to engage with many veterans and their families throughout the day, answering questions and informing them about the work that the office does and where they can get help or assistance should they need it. This is particularly important for those veterans living in Northern Ireland, as many will have been briefed to remain ‘low key’ due to past security concerns emulating from the troubles. It is important that veterans and their families know where they can go for trusted support, free of judgement, security concerns and a place of safety where they can just be themselves and get the help, support and advice that they need.
Following a successful Armed Forces Day on Saturday 17 June, on Monday 19 June, the Veterans Commissioner had the honour to raise the Armed Forces Flag alongside the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Margaret Tinsley, alongside a significant number of veterans who joined us on the day. The Armed Forces Flag is flown on public buildings around the UK during Armed Forces week during the period between Northern Ireland and Great Britain Armed Forces Days, in recognition of service people and their families.
A huge thanks is due to everyone who attended and organised Armed Forces Day in Larne and to those who continue to recognise and support the dedication of our Armed Forces personnel both past and present.
Photographs courtesy of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council & NIVCO.