‘Stunning, simply Stunning’
Those are just a few of the words used by visitors to describe this year’s Isle of Wight Armed Forces Day, held in Ryde on Sunday (25 June).
With a new dynamic team led by Councillor Ian Dore, the sense of direction is clear – onwards and upwards.
“It surpassed all expectations and I’m still in shock,” said Councillor Dore, chair of Armed Forces Day and Isle of Wight Armed Forces Champion. The turnout was phenomenal and it’s testament to the decency and strength of character we have, when it comes to supporting our Armed Forces community.
On the stage at the opening ceremony, it was a sea of faces, young and old, filled with pride and passion. A truly humbling experience. Incredibly, that level of focus and excitement didn’t dip throughout the day, despite the heat. The parachute commander said that compared to the event in Portsmouth the week before, from his bird’s-eye view, we were busier in Ryde! That is such an incredible reflection of how our Armed Services community is valued on the Island.”
Those in attendance included HM Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Susie Sheldon, who took the salute of the parade. She was joined by the High Sheriff, Dawn Haig-Thomas, chair of the council, Claire Critchison, and council leader, Councillor Lora Peacey-Wilcox.
At the saluting dais representing the committee were the patron of Isle of Wight Armed Forces Day, Major General Sir Martin White, Deputy Lord Lieutenant Brigadier Maurice Sheen and their guest of honour, D-Day veteran Roy Hayward.
Sir Martin later spoke passionately about the event in his speech at the closing ceremony.
Councillor Dore added: “Armed Forces Day is a day of celebration spanning cadets, reservists, veterans, serving members, families and the wider community. Everyone is on equal footing. The challenge is the balance and I think we achieved that. The crowds were dazzled by the Spitfire display, cheered as the parachute display team fell from the skies, tapped along to the sound of the bands and whooped as the BMX team flew through the air.
Plus of course, all that was going on in Eastern Gardens with the charities, interactive stands and static displays. All of whom have recorded stellar levels of engagement and participation.
Councillor Dore added: “We are all chuffed to Naafi breaks! This has been in the planning for a long time and without the dedicated efforts of a rock solid team, we simply couldn’t have delivered the event that so many turned out to enjoy. Every one of them vital to the cause. Ultimately, it’s the participants and the public that deserve the biggest salute for showing such gracious and passionate support. Our heartfelt thanks to one and all.
We now have the foundations to build from and my vision, as it was from the outset, is to secure the national event. It’s ambitious but it’s not out of reach. You have to aim high!”