On Saturday 29th June 2013, shipmates Karl Webb and Pete Aston attended the St Ives Armed Forces Day (AFD) celebrations. This was the first time Huntingdon & District Branch had represented the RNA for AFD. We had been offered a stall alongside other Armed Forces organisations and associations such as the Royal British Legion, RAFA, Help for Heroes, and even for Nowzad (an organisation that rescues stray and abandoned animals in Afghanistan).
Huntingdon & District Branch had been invited to attend the celebrations by Alison Melnyczuk, St Ives Town Clerk. Alison met us in the High Street and directed us to our allocated stall. In no time at all we had decorated the stall with RNA and naval bunting.
We also had a number of display boards depicting the Core Values of the RNA, photographs of events Huntingdon Branch have taken part in, and information on the Royal Naval and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), who were our chosen charity for AFD.
We had wondered if we would have enough items to attract interest from the visitors to St Ives, we were extremely pleased that once set up, we had more than enough to promote the Association and our chosen charity.
Of course we were also able to meet fellow former Armed Forces personnel such as Rod Morison, a former Royal Marine, who collects for Nowzad and Retired Greyhounds. Clearly, being sited alongside the RNA, the banter flew back and forth between us.
As well as meeting other UK associations, we were very pleased to see, and chat with, our American counterparts such as Commander Denis Paskauskas of the United States Navy. We were visited by Nick Dibben, St Ives Town Mayor, and later on by Pam Edey, the Deputy Town Mayor; both welcomed us, and thanked us for taking part in the celebrations and spent a lot of time chatting to us about the RNA and what we are doing for local communities.
The Royal British Legion and Royal Air Force Association were also present, although we were separated by the Help for Heroes stand, we managed to make a few new friends (of course we reminded them that we are after all, the Senior Service on parade!).
It was good to see a Spitfire used as a static display for the event. After the official raising of the AFD Flag at 1200 sharp, we were treated to a flying display by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Spitfire – although, we were under cover of the stall so sadly only caught a fleeting glance of this magnificent aircraft as it flew past.
The Band from Royal Air Force Wyton provided entertainment for locals and visitors to St Ives (including the stall holders of course).
We were kept pretty busy discussing the role of the RNA in Huntingdon (and beyond), but managed to get a quick shot of us ‘on parade’.
Being such a warm day, everyone was able to wander around the stalls and static displays, hopefully learning about the role of UK (and US) Armed Forces in the local area.
From both ends of the High Street, the Royal Naval Ensign was visible to all, and it did draw in the crowds, including former service personnel from the Royal Naval services – let’s hope some of those visitors become ‘Shipmates’ of the RNA in the near future.
Shipmate Pete Aston in the role of recruiting officer!
We made it clear to all our visitors that we are a friendly organisation, and will speak to anybody – including current and former RAF personnel! We were asked to pose with some of the stall holders, just to prove that the banter really is conducted in a friendly manner – we even managed to get donations from them!
But of course, the day had to end sometime, and what a fitting end it was, the battle of Britain Memorial Flight provided another aircraft for a short display, this time a Hurricane, another spectacular aircraft.
Once the flying display had completed, we began to dismantle the stall. For our first attendance at AFD we were extremely pleased with how the day went, we believe we got the message across about our organisation, we made some money for our chosen charity, and for our own branch (also a registered charity), but the real success will be proven if we manage to recruit new members to the branch, only time will tell.
We will be back next year.
During the day we chatted to Dave Mack, he was taking photographs and video of the days events and explained to us that he will be posting the results on the local ‘Shape Your Place’ website on completion of his editing. Dave sent the link to his YouTube clip:
‘Shape Your Place’ website. Click here to view the video.