Town backs veterans in first Armed Forces Day
ARMED Forces Day celebrations will return to Bexhill next year after the town's first event was deemed a "total success" by its organiser.
Around 40 stalls and more than 2,000 people rubbed shoulders with the top brass of 1066 Country in a packed Egerton Park on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
And Bexhill Veterans' Association, who arranged the day, had their new hand-stitched standard blessed by Reverend Daniel Smith, assistant curate at St Peters.
The honour of carrying it now falls to Tom Craggs, the Veterans' standard bearer.
It was an important moment for Chris Gadsden, chair and founder of the group, who worked for months to ensure the day ran according to plan.
"It was absolutely fantastic," said Chris, of Buxton Drive. "The Lord Lieutenant and his wife said to me they thought it was the best one they had ever been to.
"In the morning when we went down it was bare, but by 11.30 it was packed with people. Everyone is asking me if it will be a yearly event and I don't think we've got any choice.
"I want to thank everyone, right down to the Verdant rubbish collecting staff."
More than 200 people marched in a parade around the park, watched by Peter Field, Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Cllr Jimmy Carroll, Mayor of Bexhill, Wing Commander Martin Haswell, commanding officer of the Air Training Corps, local MP Greg Barker, and Cllr Robert Elliston, chairman of Rother District Council (RDC).
Cllr Elliston later praised Chris and the Bexhill Veterans at RDC's full council meeting on Monday, registering the council's thanks and singling out Bexhill youngster Keaton Peppiatt, 12, for his "tireless work fundraising for the forces".
The Little Common Royal British Legion band provided music along with other entertainment from local Hospital Radio, members of East Sussex School of Performing Arts (ESSPA), and a performance from the children of King Offa School.
Chris estimates membership of the association has been boosted by between 50 and 60 applicants since the weekend.
"Thanks to every stallholder who turned up, I had no problems with any of them, and a big thank you to the whole of Bexhill for joining in.
"Lastly, thanks to Steve Knight for building the temporary bandstand and Sean Pelling for building the saluting dais for the parade."
For information about Bexhill Veteran's Association, contact Chris on 01424 734204 or email [email protected]