For me, it is always a joy and a privilege to celebrate the dedication and fortitude of our military community. And there is no better time to do so than during Armed Forces Week, when the nation joins together to express our gratitude to, and admiration for, the men and women who keep this country safe. Armed Forces Week also affords us the opportunity to recognise those who work tirelessly to support our military personnel – families, charities, community groups, institutions, and more.
Armed Forces Day itself takes place this year on 24th June, with the national event being hosted by Cornwall Council in beautiful Falmouth. It is certain to be a fantastic day, but from where does the tradition originate? In classic XFE style, my team and I went back in time to learn more about the genesis of Armed Forces Day and the ways in which history is reflected in this year’s iteration of the event.
First celebrated back in 2006, plans for Armed Forces Day were announced with the aim of ensuring that the contribution of our military was never forgotten. Initially titled Veterans’ Day (following the American tradition), the first event was held on Saturday the 27th of June 2006, a date chosen to coincide with the day after the anniversary of the first investiture of the Victoria Cross in Hyde Park, London, in 1857.
As we delved into the history of Armed Forces Day, it was impossible to ignore the connection between our Armed Forces and the picturesque coastal town of Falmouth, host of the national celebration this year. Nestled on the south-western shores of England, Falmouth is renowned for its rich maritime heritage, resonating with the spirit of courage and resilience displayed by our Armed Forces.
Falmouth’s maritime connection is evidenced most notably by its role as the home of the National Maritime Museum, Henry VIII’s sea fort Pendennis Castle, and the third largest naturally occurring harbour in the world.
The town has a longstanding, storied history with the Armed Forces, and in particular the Royal Navy, given its coastal location. It was here in 1805 that news was first landed from the Schooner ‘Pickle’ of Britain’s victory at Trafalgar and the tragic death of Lord Nelson. In later years Falmouth would again earn its place in history as the jumping-off point for the infamous raid of St Nazaire, codenamed ‘Operation Chariot’ – it was here in 1942 that sailors and commandos alike set sail for the raid for which five Victoria Crosses would come to be awarded.
Armed Forces Day stands as a poignant reminder of the unwavering courage, selflessness, and unyielding commitment exhibited by those who serve in uniform. It is a moment to reflect upon sacrifices and triumphs, not only of our servicemen and servicewomen, but also our military families, Veterans and Reservists, all of whom make up this extraordinary community.
So, join me – a proud, serving, British Army Reservist – in sharing a salute to all those who play a part in defending our shores and our way of life.
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