Preston goes back on parade to honour its military

Preston will finally stage its Armed Forces Day tomorrow more than two years after it last went on parade.

By Brian Ellis
Friday, 20th August 2021, 8:23 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 8:26 am

The city will get its chance to say “thank you” to its military heroes - past, present and future - with a trooping of the colours on the Flag Market.

The ceremony will be particularly poignant for the veterans of the war in Afghanistan, many of whom have been left feeling the return to power of the Taliban this week after 20 years has meant their service and sacrifice has been for nothing.

“We particularly want our veterans of the Afghanistan campaign to have their heads held high,” said Colonel David Waters, president of the Preston and District Veterans’ Council, who will be playing a part in the service.

Preston's last Armed Forces Day was back in 2019.

“They did a magnificent job in the most difficult of circumstances. Everything was against them - terrain, climate, equipment, tactics, a fanatical enemy - but they battled on and gradually they won through.

“The fact that a sudden change in American foreign policy has pulled the rug from under us should not make them feel their sacrifices were for nothing, must not be allowed to denigrate the achievements and improvements they brought about and will in no way detract from the pride and high esteem we hold them in. This is a timely opportunity to show them that.”

The last Armed Forces Day in Preston was in June 2019. Last year’s event was called off due to Covid, as was the one in June this year. But now, with restrictions relaxed, the city has decided it is high time to show its heartfelt gratitude.

At 11am there will be a special service at the War Memorial, with a procession of regimental standards from the Town Hall to the Flag Market. The service, led by Army Padre Kevin Savage, will be addressed by the Mayor and Col Waters. It will be attended by veterans, serving military and cadets.

Regimental standards will be proudly displayed, just as they were in 2019.

It will be followed by community singing and the National Anthem. WW2 veterans will later be invited to have refreshments at the Harris Museum and all veterans will then be able to gather at the Empire Services Club in Hartington Road.

“It’s been a strange year and a half where we’ve been determined to maintain military traditions, whilst at the same time staying within the law in order to protect the health and well-being of our veterans and the general public,” explained Col Waters.

“We’ve had to quietly hold established services such as Remembrance Day without advance publicity hoping there would be minimum numbers in attendance.

"We’ve also had the ‘specials’, VE 75 Day, VJ 75 Day and the opening of the Normandy Veterans Memorial, where we’ve done our best for the surviving World War Two veterans and their families to honour them for the service they have given to our country.

Veterans turned out in force for the 2019 ceremony.

“The standard bearers, our bugler and our piper have been magnificent and many families have been hugely grateful for the way we’ve recognised and honoured veterans who have passed away – some small comfort in desperate times. It’s been a difficult balancing act but I’ve been very proud of the support we’ve given in drastically changed circumstances.

“We can put all that behind us, now we can show our faces again, meet and greet and hold parades. We can remember our dead, honour our veterans, recognise our serving sailors, soldiers, airmen and women and do it with pride, in style and with a little bit of swagger.

“We never forgot and now we continue to remember ‘those who gave their tomorrows for our todays’ in the right way, the time honoured way and it will be great to come out of enforced hibernation and get back to some semblance of normality.”