FLAG RAISING CEREMONY MONDAY 21 JUNE 2021
AS PART OF ARMED FORCES WEEK
The Deputy Town Mayor, Councillor Catherine Clark, accompanied by her Consort, her husband Mark Clark and the Town Clerk & General Manager, Ms Lorraine Jeffs, on behalf of Whitehill Town Council, were joined by Darron Back, Branch Secretary, Bordon & District Branch of The Royal British Legion (RBL), to pay their respects to our Armed Forces community during a ceremony in the event space at the Forest Community Centre on Monday 21st June 2021. The event was held to mark the start of Armed Forces Week, with Armed Forces Day being Saturday 26th June 2021.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the easing of lockdown this year’s short ceremony was relatively low-key. However, representatives from local community groups, including flag bearers from the RBL and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) braved the wet weather to attend and pay their respects to members of our Armed Forces.
The Deputy Mayor gave a welcoming speech in which she paid tribute to the Corps of the REME for the important role that they have played in our town for over a century which was recognised in 2015 when they were awarded the “Freedom of the Town” at the Farewell to the Garrison Festival, and said that “it is important that we still recognise this event as a part of this town’s heritage”.
The Deputy Mayor said: “it is only right that we should give recognition to the tremendous support, sacrifice and commitment carried out by our Armed Forces (Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force), both veterans and present service men and women”. The Deputy Mayor also paid tribute “to the amazing work carried out by the volunteer organisations, such as the RBL and the Armed Forces Charity, The Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force Association (SSAFA)”.
Darron Back gave a speech on behalf of the RBL in which he explained the lead up to the formation of the RBL by the four organisations, the two National Federations of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors & Soldiers, South East and North; Comrades of the Great War and The Officers Association. On Sunday 15th May 1921, a small group of ex-servicemen and representatives from the four organisations walked to the Cenotaph in London and as Big Ben struck 9am, the four men representing the four organisations laid wreaths with badges of the four organisations that would officially unite to become The British Legion.
Darron reminded the audience that “this year The RBL is celebrating its 100th year and it is needed more than ever, with the number of service personnel with more complex medical needs, the RBL spends approximately £1 million a day supporting our forces, retired members and their families. The district has a number of organisations that are available here for the Armed Forces, we have The RBL, REME, SSAFA and the Royal Air Force Association (RAFA) who can and will step in and assist emotionally and financially if required”. Darron encouraged local support organisations to get in touch if help is needed. He also advised that you no longer need to have served in the Armed Forces to join the ranks of the RBL – please see the Bordon & District RBL website for contact details, alternatively, the national number is 0808 802 8080.
The RBL was founded by and for Armed Forces personnel as a demonstration of its attitude towards its members. The constitution was proposed by a private soldier and seconded by a general – there would be no distinction between rank, religion or political affiliation.
Following Darron’s speech, The Deputy Mayor invited him to raise the Armed Forces Day flag, which was followed by 1 minute’s silence as a mark of respect to commemorate the event.
In her closing speech The Deputy Mayor said “Thank you for joining us today and on behalf of Whitehill Town Council I would like to take this opportunity to thank our local community members as they continue to help and support each other at this difficult time. I offer a heartfelt thank you to all members of the NHS, military personnel and key workers of essential services who continue working, often at personal risk, to keep the country operating safely – they are a credit to us all”.