Armed Forces Day gets off to a flying start

A spectacular aerial display by the Red Arrows will set the standard for a fantastic series of 2011 UK Armed Force Day events across Edinburgh this weekend (24 to 26 June).

This year, the city is hosting the major Armed Forces Day national event, in partnership with sponsors BAE Systems and Finmeccanica, which promises to be the biggest and best since the annual celebrations began in 2009. 

Up to 100,000 people are expected to flock to Scotland's capital to enjoy a full weekend of activities running from tomorrow through to Sunday.

The world-famous team are set to light up the skies above the Capital as they perform their first display in Edinburgh for 23 years tomorrow as part of the first day’s activities.

Events planned for the three days include:

Armed Forces Day kicks off over Edinburgh's Ocean Terminal with tours of Type 23 frigate HMS Portland, various water-based displays in the docks, the Flying Gunners motorcycle display team, and Royal Marine Band. The day culminates at 7pm with a spectacular 30 minute air display (sponsored by SELEX Galileo) by the world famous Red Arrows over the Firth of Forth. Some of the best views will be from Calton Hill, The Braids, Corstorphine Hill, Arthur's Seat, Cramond and the Promenade. Visitors will also have the opportunity to try out Tornado jet simulators at the Ocean Terminal shopping centre.

The highlight of Armed Forces Day itself will see a parade of an incredible 2,500 military personnel, veterans and cadets marching down the Royal Mile from the Castle Esplanade to Holyrood Park, past Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay.  The parade will end with a flypast from the Red Arrows and then a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Edinburgh Academy school choir, fresh from their success winning the BBC Songs of Praise 'choir of the year' competition, will perform during the Drumhead Service at 12.55pm in Holyrood Park. The service is a tradition going back for centuries that soldiers in the field, without recourse to their chapels or churches on Sunday, would lay their drums neatly, consecrate them by laying their standards on them, and use them as an altar.

World famous bagpipe rockers the Red Hot Chilli Pipers will top the bill on the main stage in the Park on Saturday afternoon.  Joining them in the arena will be military musical acts such as the Royal British Legion Pipe Band and other military bands as part of a packed afternoon of events and entertainment for all the family. There'll be a parachute display, a Veterans Village and a Royal Marine combat demo.  For kids there'll be an exhibition of armoured vehicles from Afghanistan, flight simulators, inflatable assault course, climbing wall, crazy golf and demolition fun zone. The day will draw to a close at 6pm with a classic military Beating Retreat with Typhoon and Tornado flypast from RAF Leuchars and RAF Lossiemouth.

As well as The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay - the First Minister, Defence Secretary, Scottish Secretary, Presiding Officer, Chief of the Defence Staff, President of Royal British Legion Scotland and Lorraine Kelly will all be attending.

Sunday's events are being organised by DecAid to raise money for those affected by the war in Afghanistan. The day starts with a public military fitness session in Holyrood Park (anyone can join in), followed by a massed Pipes and Drums parade from the Castle Esplanade to Holyrood Park past the DecAid patron HRH The Duchess of Rothesay.  The afternoon will include live acts on the big stage, headlined by Carrie Mac, a military style assault course and Veterans Village.

On Saturday and Sunday night the Edinburgh International Film Festival will link up with Armed Forces Day to screen the premiere of award winning Hell and Back again, a war film like never seen before.  The film is a gritty account of the conflict in Afghanistan, seen through the eyes of a US marine severely injured on the frontline, and his recovery at home.  The film is free to military personnel, veterans and their families and will be followed by panel discussion with experts such as the film maker himself and former Major General Andrew Mackay who commanded Task Force Helmand in 2007/8.

Many businesses have been keen to show their support with First Bus offering free travel within Edinburgh City Centre for all those dressed in full military uniform on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Virgin Trains offering free first class upgrades to troops.  Hundreds of taxis across Edinburgh will display the Armed Forces Day sticker with pride.  And other businesses around Edinburgh and the UK will offer discounts to military personnel and veterans.
The Rt Hon George Grubb, Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, said: "This weekend promises to be very special with plenty of exciting and fun events for everyone whether it’s the spectacular sight of 2,500 veterans and Armed Forces personnel marching down the Royal Mile, the Red Arrows displays or all the family fun and military activities in Holyrood Park.

"Edinburgh has a long and proud tradition of honouring its Armed Forces and I urge everyone to come along and enjoy a fantastic weekend in support of our service personnel."

Council Leader Jenny Dawe said: "Hosting an event on this scale is something for which Edinburgh is internationally renowned - indeed, the city has a reputation as one of the top events destinations in the world thanks to the success of major occasions such as the visit by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and Edinburgh's Hogmanay.

“Ever since I attended the National Armed Forces Day event in Cardiff last year, I have been looking forward to bringing the celebrations to Scotland's capital. The Council and our partners and sponsors are working very hard to ensure this year's programme is a huge success."

General Sir David Richards said: “Saturday marks the third Armed Forces Day and I continue to be delighted and amazed by the support that the people of Edinburgh are giving to this event. It is wonderful that the City of Edinburgh Council is hosting the event this year and I would like to pay tribute to all their efforts in organising it.

“As the Chief of the Defence Staff I see at first hand the jobs that the men and women of the Armed Forces do and I can assure you that the recognition and thanks given by the people in communities such as yours on Armed Forces Day goes a long way to keep morale at a high level. The thanks afforded to Regulars, Reservists, Veterans and the families are very much appreciated.”

Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, said: “Armed Forces Day provides a unique opportunity for us all to pay thanks to the men and women who serve this country with such distinction. As Defence Secretary, I have the privilege of witnessing the work they do at first hand: defending our nation and its interests both at home and abroad. They represent the very best of Britain.

“I would especially like to thank the City of Edinburgh for hosting this national event.  The city has a long and proud military history and provides the perfect setting for us all to say ‘Thank you’ to our Armed Forces.”

 First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Armed Forces Day is an important acknowledgement of the respect and recognition Scotland feels for her armed forces personnel and veterans. Today we commemorate and honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of the nation, as well as celebrate the commitment and dedication of all our armed forces past and present.

"Whether serving at home or deployed on operations, their contribution is valued both by the Scottish Government and the people of Scotland. It is vital that our younger generations learn about our forces and veterans, their stories and their contribution, and take inspiration from their selflessness and bravery. I am privileged to honour them, both on Armed Forces Day and throughout the rest of the year."

Rupert Laing, one of the founders of DecAid said: "It's a great honour for DecAid to be part of the celebration of the Armed Forces in Edinburgh. There is no better platform for us to launch our appeal to mark the tenth anniversary of the Afghan conflict. We hope that the young people of Scotland will join us on Sunday 26 June to show their support for the service men and women who do so much for us."

The Armed Forces Day national event is being staged thanks to funding from the Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council and the Ministry of Defence. The Council is delighted that the event is being sponsored by Finmeccanica, BAE Systems, Force Protection, Royal British Legion, Compass Group, and SELEX Galileo.

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