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IN TRIBUTE; A day to remember as thousands attend forces event.

Byline: JASBIR AUTHI

THOUSANDS of proud Brummies paid tribute to the bravery of servicemen and women during Armed Forces Day.

Wellwishers defied the rain in Birmingham's Centenary Square yesterday and enjoyed live music, historical displays, food stalls and a host of other attractions.

The event began at 11am when names were added to the Book of Remembrance at the Hall of Memory during a poignant ceremony.

One of the biggest draws was live music played by members of the Fourth Mercian Band and West Midlands Fire Brigade.

The crowds lapped up military music, including the Dambusters theme, and even broke out into the occasional dance.

Children could see how First World War soldiers were treated on the battlefield hospital by medics at the Living History stall.

Meanwhile, visitors handled weaponry, uniforms, boots, medals and other items from the Great War at a stand organised by members of the Birmingham Pals Living History Group..

Richard Sheard, from the group, said: "The visitors can see the kind of kit used in the war. Most of the veterans have relatives who served in the armed forces going back to World War I, or even the Boer War.

"The veterans are looking at the food rations and comparing life as it was with the way they live now. The kids want to know about the guns and bits and pieces.

"There were 80,000 Indians who served on the Western Front, and people have been wanting to find out more about that time." For the active, there was a mini assault course and plenty of information on a career in the armed forces.

For a donation, members of the Royal Logistics Corps rustled up a stir-fry to give visitors a taste of what soldiers eat.

Bun Gallagher, a 61-yearold court usher, from Sutton

Coldfield, came to the event with her husband James, aged 63, and two-year-old grandson Noah.

Mrs Gallagher said: "The band is wonderful, it makes us appreciate what Birmingham is doing for the armed forces." Yvonne Arbuckle, aged 46, from Bridgnorth, came with her son John, 15, and her partner Dennis Shorter, from Sparkhill.

Ms Arbuckle said: "We are enjoying a great day out and the food is very nice. We can learn more about what the armed forces are doing." John Jones, from the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) - a national charity which helps serving, ex-servicemen and women and their families - said: "It's the first time we've been at an event like this, and we need to tell people what we do.

"I was quite surprised. There are lots of people and we've had a chance to get our message to people.

"We are 85 years older than the British Legion and we've helped 665 people in Birmingham, raising pounds 541,000. This help can be anything from funeral expenses to offering stairlifts." War veterans paraded through the square and ended the day with a salute.

sundaymercury@ sundaymercury.net
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 28, 2009
Words:490
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