Flying the flag for the Armed Forces

The flying of the Armed Forces Flag at County Hall today (Monday, 22 June) marked the start of national Armed Forces Week.

Social distancing measures enforced by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic meant the annual flag raising ceremony traditionally held in St Thomas’ Square, Newport, could not take place this year.

Instead, the Isle of Wight Council hosted an intimate ceremony in the grounds of County Hall attended by its chairman, Councillor George Cameron, Isle of Wight Lord-Lieutenant, Susie Sheldon, High Sheriff, Caroline Peel, and the council’s Armed Forces Champion, Councillor Ian Ward.

Council officer Darren Steed, a service, veteran helped raise the flag.

Councillor Cameron said: “Armed Forces Week provides us with the opportunity to show our support for those who serve in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and to those who have served in previous generations.

“We, as a nation, continue to be indebted to those who today risk their lives in many places around the world and to the veterans whose service we will never forget and always honour.

“They do a hugely difficult job and sadly there were many who died in the line of duty.

“Without their sacrifice and service, democracy would never have prevailed over terrorism and we must never forget the huge debt of gratitude we owe them.”

This year, the council recognised the support provided by the military to the Island during the Covid crisis.

This support included the creation of extra capacity at St Mary’s Hospital by the Scots Guards and reservists from the Island’s 266 Squadron, the testing of arrangements for moving critical care patients off Island in a RAF Chinook helicopter and, from the Royal Navy, the provision of liaison officers to support the Department of Health in the NHS app trial.

The council also took the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to honour the Armed Forces Covenant, which sets out the authority’s relationship with the armed forces and the services available to current and former personnel and their families.

Councillor Cameron also paid tribute to ‘Forces’ Sweetheart’, Dame Vera Lynn, who passed away last week.

“Her songs were inspirational to our soldiers, raising their morale and her song, ‘We’ll meet again’, became the anthem of hope and resilience during the Second World War,” he added.

National Armed Forces Week culminates in Armed Forces Day on Saturday, 27 June.