Armed Forces Day takes place annually each June and Babergh has been given the honour of hosting this year’s celebrations – scaled back to ensure public safety in response to the delayed easing of Covid restrictions.
Following the launch of the council’s Armed Forces Day window trail yesterday, this morning saw cabinet member for communities, Cllr Derek Davis, raise the Armed Forces Day flag and pay tribute to troops.
He was joined by senior military officers, Suffolk County Council’s Armed Forces Champion, Cllr Mick Fraser, and the Mayor of Hadleigh, Cllr Frank Minns, for the Covid secure ceremony.
This took place at Wattisham, an airfield spanning over 1,000 acres across both Babergh and Mid Suffolk, which opened in 1939.
Since then, it has played a pivotal role in conflict, being used in World War II by the United States Army Air Force before becoming a front-line air force fighter airfield during the Cold War.
It is now home to a host of military equipment, including Apache attack helicopters equipped with guns, rockets and missiles to provide air defence and protect ground forces during the key stages of battle.
At present around 2,000 troops from the Army Air Corps and RAF are based at the airfield, forming a large part of the county’s military community.
Sergeant Foulkes has been posted at Wattisham for 14 years, during which time he has been deployed to Afghanistan and Norway.
When asked about army life, Sgt Foulkes said: “By far my hardest time in the army has always been, and will always be, sneaking off in the middle of the night so as to not wake my kids and remind them that I will be leaving for a couple of weeks or even months.
“Armed Forces Day is a good way to show appreciation for those on Operations and the hard working service men, women and families who give up so much.”
Babergh residents are urged to recognise this immense sacrifice on Armed Forces Day itself, Saturday June 26, and the days leading up to this.
Cllr Derek Davis, Babergh District Council cabinet member for communities commented:
“I am humbled to have raised the flag on behalf of Suffolk at one of our county’s key military bases – enabling me to see first hand why Armed Forces Day is so important.
“Service life isn’t easy, with serving personnel having to uproot their families, miss loved ones while on tour and put their lives on the line during combat. We now owe it to them to recognise this selflessness by saluting our forces and thanking them for their incredible bravery.”
Colonel Paul Hayhurst, Station Commander, Wattisham Flying Station said:
“The support of the people of Suffolk to the Armed Forces community based in the county, be they regular, reserve, cadet or veteran is fantastic.
“It is disappointing that the current Covid circumstances mean we are not able to parade in Hadleigh on Thursday as planned, but I would encourage all to take a moment on Armed Forces Day to show your appreciation by raising a salute and sharing a video or photo of this on Social Media using the hashtag #SaluteOurForces.”
Babergh District Council’s Chairman, Cllr Adrian Osborne, also paid tribute to Suffolk’s Armed Forces Community during his visit to Hadleigh’s war memorial and some of the businesses taking part in the town’s window trail earlier today.
Commenting on the displays, he said: “It is wonderful to see so many fantastic window displays on and around Hadleigh High Street in recognition of Armed Forces Day and I would like to thank everyone who has participated in the trail so far.
“Although it’s very disappointing not to host our community thank you event on Thursday as we’d hoped to, this will not stop us from remembering those who have given up years of their lives to protect our country and its people. Please join me in honouring their unwavering commitment in a Covid secure way.”
Further ideas on how to mark the day and support our service personnel can be found on the council’s website, which also includes stories from some of our county’s finest military heroes. These range from the Lord Lieutenant’s Army Cadet for Suffolk, to a busy mum of three who has been highly commended for her important role in the RAF.