Armed Forces Day: Celebrating Those Who Serve
Saturday 26th June 2021 is Armed Forces Day. It is a celebration and a show of support for those who serve in the three sectors of the UK’s military – the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
While Armed Forces Day is held on a Saturday each year, the entire week is used as an opportunity to reflect on what the Armed Forces have achieved over the past 12 months and what lies ahead. Not just limited to veterans and active service personnel, there was also a Reserves Day celebrated on Wednesday 23rd June 2021, which shows appreciation for those who give up their spare time to train to serve in the Armed Forces, should they be required.
In light of a difficult 15 months, Armed Forces Day is perhaps more significant this year as each branch of the military has played a substantial role in assisting and fighting against the Coronavirus pandemic.
What is Armed Forces Day and why is it celebrated?
Initially announced and celebrated as Veterans Day in 2006, it was renamed Armed Forces Day in 2009 and has taken place on the last Saturday in June every year since. Events are held across multiple towns and cities in the UK.
Armed Forces Day is a time for the public to show their support and appreciation for military veterans and current serving personnel across the Armed Forces who helped and continue to protect the lives of those of us who live in the UK and those in the UK’s overseas territories.
The Armed Forces
The British Army
With a several hundred year history, the British Army in 2018 consisted of approximately 112,000 serving regular and reserve soldiers. In addition to the UK, the Army are stationed and deployed across the globe in locations such as Cyprus, the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar. Charged with being the front line of defence, the Army fight against and protect the UK from its enemies, most notably in recent times being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Royal Navy
With approximately 30,000 service personnel and including the Royal Marines, they form a significant part of the UK’s Armed Forces. As part of their work in peacetime, the Royal Navy help support the UK economy by protecting the seas and maritime trade. Additionally, they are active across the globe with humanitarian work and acting as a peacekeeper.
The Royal Air Force
Previously two separate entities, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged to become the Royal Air Force in 1918. For over 100 years members of the RAF have served to protect the skies over the UK. The RAF consists of approximately 33,000 regular and reserve service personnel and in addition to preventing conflict, the RAF are heavily involved in delivering humanitarian aid and evacuating those affected by political unrest and natural disasters.
Armed Forces and Coronavirus
For so many of us, 2020 and 2021 has been an unprecedented period due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this has been no different for the Armed Forces. Over the past 15 months the Armed Forces have been committed to providing assistance to the NHS and local communities throughout the UK.
This has involved the Army turning the Excel Centre into a 4,000 bed NHS Nightingale hospital and providing equipment to Intensive Care Units. The Army have also been brought in to drive ambulances as well as transport PPE equipment, vaccines and supplies. Despite Coronavirus, the Army have continued to be deployed across the world on various peacekeeping missions.
This year, Royal Navy medics have supported the national effort of the vaccination programme by delivering vaccines to people at a mass vaccination hub in Bristol. In a joint operation the Royal Navy and the RAF delivered vaccines to the UK territory Tristan da Cunha, one of the world’s most remote islands.
Over the past 15 months the RAF have had medical staff and other service personnel deployed to hospitals and ambulance services across the UK to provide support against the global pandemic. RAF pilots also helped to repatriate British citizens who were overseas when Coronavirus travel restrictions came into force and they were unable to return home.
The Armed Forces have collectively worked with the NHS on COVID-19 testing and trained others on how to conduct the tests. They have also assisted with the rolling out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme by setting up vaccination centres whilst also distributing and delivering the vaccine.
For the Armed Forces collectively, by March 2021 almost 400 Military Aid to Civil Authority requests, where the Armed Forces assist non-military bodies, have been made demonstrating the extensive support that has been provided by the military over the past year. Outside of the UK, The Armed Forces have also assisted in providing medical equipment to countries in need around the world.
Getting involved in Armed Forces Day
The level of demand placed on the Armed Forces and those who serve has been particularly great over the last 15 months. Their service at both home and abroad during these difficult times has been invaluable.
Armed Forces Day is the time for us to show our appreciation and support to those who sacrifice their time and their lives in service of the British public. It is a day to celebrate with them and thank them for the work that they have done and continue to do during the pandemic and in the context of their wider service.
If you want to get involved, this year events are being held across the UK including Aberdeen, Birmingham, Leicester, Leeds, Manchester and London, to name but a few. Further information on how to get involved in Armed Forces Day or where events are taking place can be found by visiting the Armed Forces Day website.