Armed Forces Day becomes victim of Covid

Preston's Armed Forces Day, due to be held on Saturday, has been postponed for two months.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 4:42 pm

Organisers say Covid rules will not allow a full-scale celebration. So, rather than put on a scaled-down version, a decision has been made to hold it over until later in the summer when restrictions could be lifted altogether.

A date of August 21 has been announced, although that too will depend on whether the nation has completed the Government's roadmap out of lockdown.

Armed Forces Week is still going on this week - a special flag was raised over the Town Hall yesterday to mark the start.

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The Lytham St Annes Spitfire Ground Display Team with their fighter plane at Preston's 2019 Armed Forces Day.

In a low key ceremony, the President of the Preston and District Veterans' Council, retired Colonel David Waters said: "In partnership with the City Council we have taken the decision not to go ahead with Armed Forces Day this coming Saturday, the 26th, where we would have been restricted in what we could safely do.

"Instead, we will hold a Proud Preston - Proud Veterans Day on Saturday August 21, by which time more people will have had the opportunity to have been vaccinated.

"Restrictions will have been lifted and everyone, veterans and public alike, can fully, loudly and with unbridled joy, safely celebrate and appreciate the contribution and sacrifice made by so many in the defence of our country and, more recently, in supporting the NHS in its fight against the worst effects of this dreadful disease."

A full programme of events to salute Britain's servicemen and women had been planned for Saturday. It is estimated thousands would have attended had the pandemic rules allowed.

Preston's Sea Cadets and Royal Marine Cadets at the 2019 event in the city centre.

In the past as many as 25,000 have turned out to support the annual tribute to the Armed Forces community, including families, veterans and cadets.

Last year the day had to be moved online due to Covid. It had been hoped England would have lifted restrictions this week. But, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to extend them for a month because of the spread of the Delta variant, it was agreed to delay it until it could be held live.

The event is the latest in a string of military ceremonies hit by the pandemic since the first lockdown in March 2020. VE Day, VJ Day and Remembrance Sunday were also affected, as was a services tribute on the day of the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral.

The Armed Forces flag will fly over the Town Hall until Saturday. It is expected it will be hoisted again on August 21 when the city finally comes together to pay homage to its servicemen and women.

Coun Nweeda Khan, Member Champion for Armed Forces at Preston City Council, said: “We are immensely proud of the men and women who serve in our armed forces and grateful for the sacrifices they make to keep us all safe.

“Every year we come together as a city to pay tribute to those servicing in the forces on Armed Forces day and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice with a civic ceremony.

“Unfortunately due to the extension of coronavirus restrictions we have had to postpone the events around Armed Forces day until a time when we can come together as a city and pay tribute to our service personnel properly.”