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Thousands mark Armed Forces Day

The Armed Forces National Event in PlymouthVeterans’ Day was first celebrated in Britain in 2006 and was renamed Armed Forces Day in 2009

Thousands of people have lined the streets of Plymouth for a parade by service personnel, veterans and cadets to mark Armed Forces Day.

Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the “enormous contribution that the armed forces make every day”.

More than 200 events across Britain include fly-pasts and church services.

Victoria Cross holder Cpl Johnson Beharry launched the day by carrying the Olympic Torch to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Prince Edward took the salute from those marching through Plymouth, which was chosen to host this year’s main national celebration.

The Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll also performed a steampast through Plymouth Sound and fired a 21-gun salute in his honour.

Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, said the day was “an excellent opportunity for us all to let our men and women realise how much they are appreciated”.

He said people of all ages and backgrounds had a “deep respect” for those in the forces.

“It is from our society that our Armed Forces are drawn and from our society that we draw our strength.”

The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Michael Wright, said the city had a long naval and military heritage and “strong continuing links” with the Armed Forces.

Olympic torch

Cpl Johnson told the BBC it had been an honour to carry the Olympic Torch into the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

War hero Corporal Johnson Beharry carried the Olympic

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Victoria Cross recipient Cpl Beharry was “honoured” to carry the torch

The 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment soldier – one of only six living recipients of the highest decoration for valour – suffered serious head injuries during an ambush in 2004 in Iraq.

The UK’s centre of remembrance records the names of servicemen and women killed since 1945.

“The hardest part for me was to actually enter the arboretum knowing that I could have been on the wall,” Cpl Johnson said.

“A few seconds more and I would have been on the wall. So it means a lot to me and all the guys in the service.”

The Olympic Flame was on its journey from Derby to Birmingham on day 43 of the relay leading up to the Games.

Repatriation Bell

Visitors to the garrison town of Carrickfergus, County Antrim, watched a flypast by Tornado jets, while the Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones attended a parade in Cardiff.

In Edinburgh, veterans paraded along King’s Stables Road and through Princes Street Gardens, while about 1,000 people joined a march through Glasgow, with a flypast of Typhoon jets.

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Many British soldiers here face danger daily. But the fighting has been pushed out into the desert areas, outside the towns and villages of central Helmand.”

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The Countess of Wessex was the guest of honour at a celebration of Armed Forces Day – and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

She attended the Tyne and Wear Diamond Jubilee Gala as Honorary Colonel-in-Chief of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps.

She presented campaign medals to 201 field hospital volunteers who recently returned from active service in Afghanistan.

In Oxfordshire, the national Repatriation Bell was unveiled at Brize Norton, opposite the county’s memorial garden.

The bell is on the route between RAF Brize Norton and The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where the bodies of British servicemen and women are taken when they are returned to Britain.

Veterans’ Day was first celebrated in Britain in 2006. The annual event was renamed Armed Forces Day in 2009.

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