Amidst the national political turbulence on Saturday, hundreds of councils honoured the military by celebrating Armed Forces Day.
Parades and flypasts took place across the country. The national event was in Cleethorpes hosted by North East Lincolnshire Council. More than 200,000 people attended – far more than expected. They included the Prime Minister.
In Southend “a military vehicle was on display along the seafront as well as a string of other events across the county, such as a special outdoor learning event at Darlinghurst School in Leigh, to mark the occasion”:
“The annual Armed Forces Parade in Southend included cadets, current members of the Armed Services and veterans.
“This parade marched up the High Street and halted outside the Victoria Shopping Centre for an open-air service accompanied by a choir and band.”
In Plymouth there were 50,000 attending. Events included the Junior Field Gun Tournament with nine local Primary Schools taking part.
Grove in Oxfordshire saw children “making flags, exploring the inside of army trucks, and practising military techniques”; later Status Quo drummer John Coghlan also made an appearance at 6pm to perform to crowds.
The Local Government Association has praised the 370 councils that have signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant Local Pledge. This “ensures service personnel and their families get the support they need in terms of housing, looking for employment and education.” Special funding from central Government is distributed to community groups helping veterans.
It is also about ensuring that those who serve are not discriminated against. For example those who spend time abroad in the armed forces should return to be in the front, not the back, of the queue for housing allocation.
Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, said:
“Our members have signed the local covenant pledge as a demonstration of their commitment to promoting the work of the armed forces and ensuring those who selflessly serve their country are able to access the council services they need to help them settle in their communities and make a smooth transition into civilian life.”
Amidst all the talk about how the referendum had divided the nation here was a tremendous demonstration of unity and resolve in towns and villages across the land. The role of local government in ensuring it took place is to be celebrated.