FOR a small town we do things big. Far from the bright lights of the city this former industrial Welsh stronghold has produced men and women who have served in the Armed Forces across the globe. Taking with them no doubt that Llanelli accent and sense of humour.
Looking around the crowds of services personnel one could spot old school friends who had served in recent conflicts. Standing quietly almost unnoticed they watched with respect as men and women of all ages and for that matter young children who have begun their careers in the cadet forces marched along Stepney Street led by a group of drummers in the most scarlet of uniforms. Very fitting for ‘Scarlet Town’.
Another man in scarlet was Dewi, a Chelsea Pensioner originally from Trimsaran now living at the Royal Hospital in London. “What a fantastic turn out” he said with a smile. Asked how he had been welcomed he said: “The people here have been fantastic. People have stopped me to shake my hand and thank me. Llanelli can be very proud of themselves today.”
A contingent of VIP’s from Agen were present including the Mayor of Agen, Jean Dionis du Séjour. He was equally impressed with the parade and the town itself, which is celebrating a 30th year of twinning with his home town.
Veterans on mobility scooters joined the parade watched on by a large number of VIP’s including Sara Edwards, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Dyfed, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Dyfed Lt Col David Mathias DL, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Nia Griffith MP, Lee Waters AM, Mayor of Llanelli John E Jones JP, Chairman of Carmarthenshire County Council Kevin Madge, Armed Forces Champion David Jenkins, Chair of Llanelli Rural Council Sharen Davies and Veteran Community Benefactor Mr. George Parker.
Armed Forces Day (Formally Veterans Day) were announced in February 2006 by then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who said the aim was to ensure the contribution of veterans was never forgotten. The first event was held later that year and the day is marked across the UK by local ceremonies with the date of the last Saturday in June being chosen as it came the day after the anniversary of the first investiture of the Victoria Cross, in Hyde Park, London in 1857.
Armed Forces Day generally focuses on celebrating the living current and ex servicemen and women and this gives everyone a chance to show their support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops, veterans and cadets and this provides a much valued morale boost for the troops and their families.
The highlight of the day was the ‘Drumhead Service’.
For centuries, soldiers about to go into battle asked for divine help and guidance in what were known to be difficult times ahead.
Because of distances to be covered and lacking any means of transport to take the soldiers to church, the Regimental Padre conducted the service in the field.
This called for a platform upon which he could place his bible and other pieces of equipment he required to conduct a formal service. Lacking any other altar, the regimental drums were put into service by stacking them in layers and draping them with the Regiments Colours or National flag which served as a temporary altar. It was in the 1700s that the first recorded use of the Drumhead for this purpose was documented.
Like most things military, it soon became a tradition, being used to remember fallen comrades, to instil calm before the battle and also being used for ordinary Sunday Worship.
The Drums themselves were an important part of military equipment being used to convey orders during battle and the drummers were considered “Elite Soldiers”.
The Chair of the Llanelli Branch Royal British Legion gave a welcome address and informed all those present of Standards on Parade.
The service was led by Revd. Eldon Phillips who Read – Wisdom of Solomon Chapter 3, verses 1-9 followed by prayers. Prayers were said for the 75th anniversary of D Day, the 50th anniversary of the conflict in Northern Ireland, the 37th anniversary of the Falklands War, and all conflicts of recent years.
Revd. Phillips asked the congregation to join him in saying the Lord’s Prayer.
The Last Post was sounded followed by the Exhortation. There then followed a minute’s silence and the Epitaph.
Both the National Anthems were sung before the march past where Her Majesty’s representatives took the salute. The parade continued to Upper Park Street before all personnel were ordered to fall out.