Queen and PM hail servicemen and women on Armed Forces Day

The Red Arrows perform a flypast over an Armed Forces Day flag in the grounds of Scarborough Castle in North Yorkshire Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

The Queen and the Prime Minister have saluted the work of British servicemen and women, as the country marks Armed Forces Day while under coronavirus lockdown.

The Red Arrows left a trail of red, white and blue smoke as they performed a flypast in North Yorkshire on Saturday morning as part of this year’s more muted celebrations.

The Hawk fast-jets took to the skies above the coastal town of Scarborough which had been due to host an event which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Armed Forces Day flag has been raised in tribute at locations across the country.

In a statement, the Queen thanked the country’s armed forces, saying: “Having had members of my family serve in each of the Armed Services, I know only too well of the pride service personnel take in their duty.

“As your Commander-in-Chief, I send my warmest best wishes to you all, your families, and the entire Armed Forces community.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson shared a video message on Twitter in which he hailed the contribution of the “heroes” from the British Army, RAF and Royal Navy during the Covid-19 crisis.

He highlighted the Army’s logistical support in building the new NHS Nightingale hospital, the RAF’s assistance in repatriating Britons stranded abroad and the Navy’s provision of air ambulances for rural communities.

Plans to celebrate Armed Forces Day in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, this year were cancelled due to coronavirus. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA
The Red Arrows fly over Scarborough Castle. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

The Prime Minister said: “There’s a grim irony in the fact that the pandemic which our military is doing so much to fight, means we can’t hold the Armed Forces Day festivities at which we could thank you for doing so much.

“But take it from me, whether you’re a regular, a reservist, a civilian contractor, a veteran, or the family and friends who support our military in so many ways, we as a nation salute you.”

Drawing a link to the celebrations that marked the end of the Second World War, Mr Johnson added: “And we will know that, day and night, at home and aboard, at sea, on land, in the air, even in space and online, our fantastic armed forces are there for us now, just as you were when the nation celebrated more than 75 years ago.

“And it’s for all that and more, that I’m proud to salute our armed forces.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also thanked serving personnel for their work during the pandemic such as running testing sites or getting personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers.

“The first duty of any government is to keep its people safe and it’s you, our armed forces, who every day stand ready to put your lives on the line for our country,” he said in a tweeted video.

Sir Keir said the country must address the challenges the armed forces face around pay, recruitment and support for veterans.

Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, urged people to remember some of the 300,000 RAF veterans in need of support, be that through financial difficulties or loneliness, who are particularly vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With this year’s celebrations being held virtually for the first time in history, military bands are due to give performances streamed on the armed forces’ Facebook and Twitter pages.

Behind-the-scenes views of the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will also be shown.

Ahead of Saturday, Mr Johnson spoke with military personnel including Lieutenant Colonel Harvey Pynn, who led a team of 20 military medics supporting the London Ambulance Service transporting patients to the NHS Nightingale hospital in London, and Wing Commander Claire Collis who was involved in the repatriation of British citizens from India and Pakistan.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace commended the military for its “professionalism, commitment and versatility” through the pandemic.

The Ministry of Defence announced in May that Scarborough will host the Armed Forces Day national event in 2021.

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