Armed Forces Week 2023

Armed Forces Week was the chance to say thank you to the entire Armed Forces Community for their hard work, dedication and efforts to and keep us safe in the UK and across the globe; this includes our reservists, cadets and all those who support them. Each day had a theme in order to focus on different aspects and people within our Armed Forces Community.

Monday – Flag Raising Day

On this day across the country the Armed Forces flags were raised on public buildings, council offices and the Houses of Parliament to pay tribute to the UK’s service personnel.

Here at SERFCA HQ we were proud to raise our own flags, as were organisations across the South East. These included Employer Recognition Scheme Award holders Medway Council, Gosport Council and Milton Keynes City Council to name a few.  

Councillor Paul Day, Town Mayor of Newport Pagnell, commented “Each year, flags are officially raised at a number of prominent locations across the country. Those who have served, those who serve now, and those who serve in future plus their families, do us proud.  So, we shouldn’t just recognise that this week, but be willing to thank them for their service year-round.”

Tuesday – Sports Day

Tuesday was a chance to promote Sports Day and celebrating the sporting achievements of service personnel.

Midshipman Rosie Staples, a Royal Naval Reservist at HMS King Alfred who represents the Women’s Navy Ruby team, manages her civilian and reservist roles alongside representing the Women’s Navy Rugby team.

Rosie said “I’ve been a Reservist for a year and a half and my greatest opportunity since joining has been playing Rugby at Twickenham for the Army v Navy match. Subsequent to that, I’ve also played Rugby in South Africa and New Zealand for the UK Armed Forces team. Any male or female can represent any service in any inter-services campaign as it’s based on merit and ability and the opportunities you can get from this are huge. There are so many opportunities I wouldn’t have had, had I not joined the Royal Naval Reserves.”

Wednesday – Reserves Day

This Reserves Day, we recognised the valuable contribution Reservists make to our Armed Forces. Major General Marc Overton, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Reserves and Cadets), recorded his thanks to all Reservists and their Families and reminded Defence and Society that the Reserves are a powerful and important part of our national defence.

Reservists give up their spare time to serve, balancing their civilian life with a military career and are integral to protecting the nation’s security at home and overseas. Sergeant Simon Gowing from 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron, 39 Signal Regiment in Windsor discussed what it is like to be working with Reserves after working with the Regular Army in an interview with BFBS Radio: “[Being in the Reserves] is a really good flexible model. People can do it part time around their day job, their businesses, their families, and they can attend when they can in evenings and weekends…they get the best of both; the sport, qualifications, the teamwork and education etc. you get in the regulars but again its part time around your day job.”

Thursday – Veterans Day

Did you know that there are currently over 2.4 million veterans in the UK? Of these there are approximately 230,000 across the South East.

Thursday was a chance to honour and appreciate the incredible people who have served in the UK Armed Forces. Across the UK we celebrated veterans by sharing their stories, experiences, and the impact they’ve made in our community.

A major part of support to veterans is the Armed Forces Covenant and the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS), which together encourage employers to support defence and inspire others to do the same. The scheme encompasses bronze, silver and gold awards for employer organisations that pledge, demonstrate or advocate support to defence and the armed forces community. Organisations like Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, who on this day were delighted to re-sign their Armed Forces Covenant.

Friday – Overseas Achievements

On the Friday, we highlighted Overseas Operations and the work our amazing Reservists do, not just on home turf, but on operations across the globe alongside their Regular counterparts.

In a recent interview, Second Lieutenant Steven Loftus from A Company 4PWRR discusses what he’s been able to achieve with the reserves alongside his day job: “I’ve been able to do some very interesting things with the Reserves. I’ve been Skiing in Val-d’Isère, canoeing, large exercises across Dartmoor and of course deployed on Operation FIRIC in the Falkland Islands. In my civilian job as a Paramedic; leadership is very important. So being able to lead a platoon of 30 soldiers in -17 conditions when you’re cold, wet and tired, when you haven’t eaten or slept, that kind of stress inoculation applied to my civilian job is very useful. Because if you can lead soldiers through that, you can pretty much lead through anything.”

Saturday – Armed Forces Day

Tributes led by His Majesty The King, The Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary marked the start of Armed Forces Day 2023 celebrations. The National Event this year was held in Falmouth, Cornwall; an action-packed day featuring the very best of the Armed Forces. It featured several air displays from the RAF Red Arrows, Typhoon combat aircraft and helicopters. There were also opportunities to get a better understanding of the role of the Armed Forces in the joint military village and HMS Richmond opens its doors for public tours.

The Armed Forces community, from regular and reserve personnel to cadets, veterans and military families, turned out at a number of events across the country to join in the celebrations. From Stirling to Southampton, more than 108 events were held by communities across the country with parades, salutes, fayres and flypasts taking place to mark the occasion.