The sun shone and thousands flocked to Folkestone for the Armed Forces Day last Sunday. The day, which was jointly promoted by Folkestone & Hythe District Council and Folkestone Town Council, is probably the biggest one day free event in Kent, with an estimated 40,000 people attending.
Roads around the Leas were closed off from mid-morning as early birds arrived to see the day officially underway. An introduction was read by the worshipful Mayor of Folkestone, Jackie Meade followed by a rousing performance of God Save The Queen carried out by the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, followed by standards of all the armed services being presented at the band stand and the ceremonial raising of the standard, to start the rest of the days events.Red arrows 1
The Leas was packed by lunchtime, when the aero legends Dakota dropped six free-falling parachute jumpers who undertook three separate styles of jumping from the historic World War Two war bird, with two ‘stream lining’ and hitting speeds of over 160 mph as they swooped down in special winged jump suits, followed by two traditional free falling ‘jumpers’ and lastly two who performed a tethered dive spiralling down toward the beach drop zone. This was followed by a the unforgettable sound of a single Merlin engine as a Spitfire performed a number of long arching loops and turns at eye level over the sea.
At lunchtime, dignitaries were treated to a reception luncheon in the Channel Suite of the Leas Cliff Hall, which acted as the base for the public address system and local radio station Academy FM who interviewed a number of the different armed forces.
All the time the action was in the air, it was matched by the Leas being swarmed with thousands of people from the majestic greens outside the Metropole and Grand Hotel, right along the top of the Leas to the World War Two Memorial Arch. In the main arena, displays by the local First Battalion of the Gurka Rifles demonstrated their unique fighting skills and a demonstration of Taekwondo. Not to be out done, different cadet groups then took part in a Tug ‘O’ War, with stall holders doing brisk trade in the fantastic warm sunshine.
One of the busiest trading stalls was the Red Arrows merchandise truck, which was ten deep as people eagerly awaited the main highlight of the day. It was one of the few chances to see the Red Arrows carry out a full 20-minute display, which due to operational schedules will be quite rare this year as they are about to undertake a ten-week tour of North America and Canada. As ever the team did not fail to impress as they came streaking across the terrace roof tops exactly on time to the second, performing the kind world class display that has made them indisputably the worlds number one aerobatic display team.
As the crowds started to leave, David Monk from Folkestone & Hythe District Council who helped sponsor the event said, “This has been a superb day and helps showcase the district to tens of thousands of people. Both the District Council along with the Town Council have worked so hard to build on the success year on year and today has been superb!”