Preston is gearing up for what many hope will be its biggest and best Armed Forces Day yet.
The summer celebration of the city’s soldiers, their families and Preston’s connection with the armed forces is taking place tomorrow, with temperatures in the mid twenties expected for the thousands in attendance.
This year’s event marks the second in a row to receive official support from Preston Council, with £5,000 spent on the day as part of the council’s Preston this Summer schedule from June to August.
Drew Gale, a former Preston councillor and Armed Forces Champion who established the day as we know it, said it’s “brilliant” that the council have officially backed the event.
“I ran it for five years and we got crowds of 25,000,” said Drew.
“The first one we ran, I was planning for two to three thousand throughout the course of the day but that was 12,000 just then from the off.
“When I agreed to take over as Armed Forces Champion one of the first engagements I had was to attend Preston Armed Forces Day for a little ceremony on the Flag Market.
“It reminded me of a smaller Remembrance Day ceremony – but that’s not what it is about.
“It’s the opposite of Remembrance Day; of course we remember but it’s a celebration and party to show thanks for the city’s armed forces, past and present, and bringing our armed forces community together.
“I thought ‘as a city with a barracks we really should be doing something better’ so I took it upon myself to build what we see now.
“It’s been very difficult to get council funding because we’re in trying financial times, but they recognise the value in the day and in letting the people of Preston show their support for the armed forces.”
Now out of his official role as Armed Forces Champion and event organiser, Drew can’t wait to enjoy this as a spectator.
“In one sense it’s been great to do nothing this year because of the time involved in organising it.
“I can’t wait to enjoy it as a spectator for the first time! It will make a change to running round like a headless chicken on the day making sure everything is running smoothly.”
Preston Council’s cabinet member for leisure and culture, Coun Peter Kelly, said: “I’m really excited for what we have in store this year.
“The event has always received council support, organising it alongside the Armed Forces Group and the council’s Armed Forces Champion.
“The shift to the event being organised by us was taken to ensure the long term development and progression of the event and we want to significantly develop Armed Forces Day over the coming years. It also represents the desire to ensure that the city’s strong military links continue to be celebrated, along with the Barracks’ city status.”
Coun Kelly added that Armed Forces Day is a “key event within the council’s summer events programme”, taking place on a major weekend for the city with both Rockprest on Moor Park and Lancashire Science Festival at the University of Central Lancashire.
• The official timing for the day is 10.30am to 4.30pm.
What to do:
The day begins at 10.30am with a formal service of celebration, including Military bands and the city’s veterans, officially declaring the event open.
There will be various military equipment on display around the Flag Market and Preston Markets, supplied by two local military museums, the veterans association and local and national charities. They are:
Salamanca Eagle on display in the Harris
This French Imperial Eagle was captured at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812 by Ensign John Pratt of the 30th Regiment of Foot, and is on loan from Lancashire Infantry Museum.
Mark IX Spitfire display
The Lytham St Anne’s Spitfire Ground display team will be showcasing their Mark IX Spitfire at the Covered Market as part of the Preston Armed Forces Day. The display will be in situ from 11am to 4pm.
The helicopter simulators are a fantastic piece of equipment that everyone can enjoy. Day goers will sit next to an instructor for a short briefing then be prepared to take flight, with the simulator hovering, rolling, turning and pitching – so fly safely!
The following acts will be taking to the stage on the Flag Market.
• Midday – Preston based singer Daniella Gallagher.
• 1pm – The East Lancs Concert Band will be performing.
• 2pm – A Swing Dance showcase followed by a performance by singer Roxanne Flynn.
The event will close with a performance by Preston based Mo-town Soul Funk band, Neon Cactus.
Preston has a long and proud history as a barracks town.
From its beginnings in 1842, Fulwood barracks rose to play a prominent part in the town’s development - as it became known as the traditional home of the Army in the North West.
It initially housed the 2nd Battalion 60th Rifles before housing the Lancashire Regiment.
In the early days of the First World War, the Pals regiment formed up on the Flag Market.
And after the Second World War, the Loyal North Lancs and East Lancs regiments returned to their base in the city.