Historic ‘first’ for town and county’s Armed Forces Day

Witney Gazette: Carterton Mayor Lynn Little with the town’s Armed Forces Day event organiser Liam Walker            Picture: OX67816 Mark Hemsworth Buy this photo Carterton Mayor Lynn Little with the town’s Armed Forces Day event organiser Liam Walker Picture: OX67816 Mark Hemsworth

HOTEL bar supervisor Liam Walker is proud to be organising the first Armed Forces Day event at the repatriation memorial site.

Despite having no military connection, the 24-year-old has organised Saturday’s event at a memorial garden in Norton Way, Carterton.

It will be the first time an Armed Forces Day service has been held at the garden, which opened in 2011.

Bodies of those killed abroad used to land at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire and were taken through Wootton Bassett to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

This returned to RAF Brize Norton, West Oxfordshire with the closure of the Wiltshire base in 2011, with the route going through Carterton.

The Valence Crescent, Witney resident approached Carterton Town Council, which owns the garden, about holding the service there.

He said: “I have no military background but I’ve always attended the repatriation events at Brize Norton and wanted to show support. We’ve never had something like this in Witney before. As a civilian I’m very proud of the armed forces and this is my way, as well as for everyone else, of saying ‘thank you’.”

Previous Armed Forces Day events were only held at the war memorial outside Carterton Town Hall. There will be one this year as well at 10am.

The memorial garden has been decorated with a union flag flower bed and Saturday’s service will be conducted by Padre Melanie Reed from RAF Brize Norton from 11am.

It will include readings and a two-minute silence to be closed by the sounding of the memorial bell and a planned fly-past at 1.40pm. A 2pm service will be held at St Mary’s Church, Witney and include a performance by the RAF Brize Norton Military Wives Choir.

Mr Walker, who wants to organise a music festival to mark the event next year, said: “I’m keen to build a relationship between Witney and Carterton because they are the district’s two largest towns.”

There will also be a service at St Mary’s Church in Witney, where the RAF Brize Norton Military Wives Choir will hold a special performance.

Charities like Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion and the armed forces charity SSAFA, will have stalls in Witney town centre from 10am to 4pm with military vehicles on display in Marriotts Walk.

Carterton Mayor Lynn Little said: “We are very respectful of what happens in the memorial garden, which is where the families gather and the hearse stops.’’

Witney Town Council deputy mayor Jim King, who served in the RAF for 35 years as a senior engineer officer, said: “As ex-military I’m over the moon for the armed forces to get this recognition.”

OTHER EVENTS ORGANISED ACROSS THE COUNTY

  • OXFORDSHIRE County Council is celebrating Armed Forces Day with a flag raising ceremony at Oxford Castle today from 10.45am
  • A parade will form in Banbury Market Place to march up Parsons Street at 11.30am on Saturday and will end at the town hall. There will also be stalls and display stands in the town
  • Bicester Carnival will run alongside Armed Forces Day on Saturday from noon to 5pm in Pringle Field
  • Millbrook School in Grove will hold events throughout the week, including a visit from troops from Abingdon’s Dalton Barracks today





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