Hundreds of visitors were present at Manchester’s packed Armed Forces Day event, to witness colourful marches of servicemen and women, in all their regimental regalia.
The new Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor June Hitchen, was also on hand to mark the celebrations, which coincided with the 100 year anniversary of the end of the First World War.
A variety of food and drink stalls had also been erected, along with historical archives and copious displays of military hardware, from hand guns to heavy artillery.
All of this was serenaded by several bands and singers, ensuring that it was a bright and upbeat affair.
However, with Downing Street’s recent row over its defence budget still in mind, and a new poll from the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association finding that veterans feel “alienated and undervalued” by society, many supporters and patrons of the celebration expressed concerns about the current state of the Armed Forces.
Jed Jaggard of Up An’ At ‘Em! History, said: “I think that more money needs to be spent on the Armed Forces in general.”
“My friend’s son was killed out in Afghanistan, because the equipment that they went to war with hadn’t been upgraded, and wasn’t up to scratch.”
“I think there’s still more to be done to make our soldiers safer on the front line.”
Keith Ogden, a member of the Royal British Legion Riders concurred, stating: “When [our veterans] have left the Armed Forces they need looking after, far more than they are now.
“To go from being trained to kill – so that they can look after us civvies – to come back and be told “get on with it”… It shouldn’t be like that. They need help. They need education when they’re coming back.”
He added: “There are plenty of veterans who are homeless. And even if they aren’t, the housing situation definitely needs to be improved, because it’s atrocious what some of those guys and girls have to live in.”
Yet critics of the military’s management remained effusive in their praise of Britain’s troops, and hailed the enthusiasm in which Manchester had embraced Armed Forces Day.
Gary Bridson-Daley, author of The Last Heroes: Voices of British and Commonwealth Veterans said: “Gratitude, and remembrance for our servicemen and women past and present.
“That’s what Armed Forces Day is all about. It’s so we can learn all about what they do for us, and it’s a celebration of them, so they know that we care.”