Last weekend was the start of Armed Forces Day celebrations in our area.
It is always a busy time of year, and it is always a pleasure.
Firstly it was Rotherham.
It was an absolutely beautiful day although very hot to be wearing full number twos – smart dress uniform for formal occasions.
I was very, very honoured to meet the family of Sgt Ian McKay VC, who was killed in action on Mount Longdon in the Falklands, especially his lovely mum who always wears a miniature of his medal with such pride.
There was a big turnout in the town centre, lots of cheering and waving, and the parade went off really well.
On Sunday it was the biggest local celebration at Nostell Priory, and the charity fundraising group of which I am a member, Pilgrimbandits, was out in force with our own tents and collecting team.
Another red hot day, and I felt particularly sorry for the police liaison team, one of whom was wearing the comedy big head to amuse the kids.
I hope he was on overtime rates for the day as he must have lost pounds in sweat!
There were many thousands of people there, and I’m sure most of them came up to shake hands and speak to us at some point in the day.
We were being helped by the Barnsley branch of the Parachute Regimental Association. All old boys from the various para regiments, including Vic, who is Ex 7para RHA like me, and has recently lost his leg so joins the scratch club.
We also had Les, who at 93 always has to be warned there’s to be no fighting on the way home.
There is so much packed into this day it’s no wonder so many people come.
As well as displays from lots of different army regiments including the Paras, and stalls for many military charities, the police, ambulance and fire services, there was the army motorcycle display team, parachute display team, the police chase and stop team, the Air Ambulance, and best of all flypast by a Spitfire.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared up into the sky. The noise was incredible and unlike anything you will ever hear.
Even the very youngest children knew that they were seeing something very special.
It may have had its day many, many years ago, but there wasn’t anybody on the showground who didn’t feel the hairs stand up on the back of their neck when it waggled its wings as it flew away.
You meet so many people you know at these events, and anyone who has ever been in uniform is always your friend!
Well it’s not over yet – next week it’s here in Doncaster, and I hope as many people as possible turn out to show our Armed Forces how much we appreciate them.
I’ll see you all there.
* Ben Parkinson, wounded Doncaster war hero