Final preparations are underway for the nation to come together to celebrate 2012's Armed Forces Day. Report by Lorraine McBride.
The flagship venue for this year’s Armed Forces Day event, which takes place on 30 June, is Plymouth.
Last year an estimated 100,000 people enjoyed celebrations in Edinburgh, the city chosen as the focal point for the national event. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands more supported Armed Forces Day across various locations up and down the UK.
As always, the event aims to raise awareness of the contribution made to Britain by those who serve and have served in the Armed Forces. Secondly, it allows the nation to show their support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community, from serving troops to Service families, veterans and cadets.
Across the UK, communities are encouraged to get involved and will hold local events.
Last month, the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Peter Brookshaw, accepted the official Armed Forces Day Flag on behalf of the city and promised a first class programme of entertainment.
At this stage, organisers are staying tight-lipped on who the big name guests will include but the MOD has confirmed that senior royalty will drop in on events in Plymouth to lend support while the Chiefs of Staff will attend regional events across the country.
Events up and down Great Britain in support of Armed Forces Day will appeal across the generations from grandparents to the youngest child.
In Plymouth, the highlights of the day will include a drumhead service, a Dakota and Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, a display by the Red Arrows, an RAF Typhoon flypast, and Royal Navy ships in Plymouth Sound, in an apt tribute to a home of military maritime history.
There will also be veterans parades, village fetes and dinner-dances held across the country, and celebrities who have pledged their support ahead of 30 June include tennis star Andy Murray, David Beckham and Dame Vera Lynn.
Actor Hugh Grant said: “To all UK Armed Forces I, like everyone I know, feel only massive respect and gratitude and admiration. All the very best.”
Other celebrity supporters include Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington, Richard Branson, Christine Bleakley, John Barrowman, Kym Marsh, Jenson Button, Bruce Forsyth, Barbara Windsor and Lorraine Kelly.
Sport promises to play a major part in promoting the event. Armed Forces Day takes place on the first weekend of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Last year, a dozen lucky military personnel who gave up their holidays to work as stewards at the tournament were invited into the royal box to enjoy the men’s final.
This year, the SW19 committee at the All England Lawn Tennis Club plans to invite troops who recently returned from Afghanistan into the royal box on Saturday 30 June to mark Armed Forces Day.
Not to be outdone, the Football Association will follow suit and invite troops to mingle with the England team at their St George’s Park training base on Friday 1 June ahead of their friendly match against Belgium the next day, and be photographed alongside the England stars.
The same weekend, the Epsom Derby will kick-start the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and troops will pose alongside the winning jockeys.
And on Armed Forces Day itself, the Round the Island Race will see approximately 40 military boats taking part in the famous race in the waters around the Isle of Wight, with donations benefiting chosen charity ‘Toe in the Water’, which uses competitive sailing to inspire injured servicemen and women.
The Crew Clothing Company are also in talks to sponsor Armed Forces Day.
In a sign of the times, the MOD plans to capitalise on the phenomenon of social media to promote Armed Forces Day. More than one million users have already said they ‘like’ the Armed Forces Day page on Facebook, there are over 10,000 followers on Twitter, and Mumsnet will tweet messages of support in the run-up to the day.
All reservists are encouraged to wear their uniforms to work, as will cadets.
Many businesses will offer attractive discounts to troops who show their ID cards or Veterans Badge. Last year, Crown Carveries, a leading restaurant chain in the Midlands, offered free meals, which was hugely popular, and they have generously agreed to repeat the arrangement.
And here in the capital, London cabbies will adorn their black cabs with Armed Forces Day stickers distributed free with their Taxi trade magazine.