Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, visits Plymouth Guildhall as Armed Forces Day begins
THE past, present and future of Plymouth’s armed forces came face-to-face with royalty as the city’s Armed Forces Day celebrations got under way in style.
His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex attended a grand reception in the city last night to mark the 95th anniversary of the Seafarers UK charity.
Prince Edward took the time to speak to dozens of veterans, charity workers and even young sea cadets ahead of attending today’s festivities on the Hoe.
Lord Mayor of Plymouth Cllr Michael Wright and Lady Mayoress Deborah Osborne welcomed him to Plymouth’s Guildhall for last night’s reception.
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Around 350 people had been invited to celebrate the charity’s milestone and mingle with the royal guest.
They included everyone from retired Royal Navy officers to serving military personnel, reservists and teenage cadets.
The prince also chatted to representatives from several charities which work with Seafarers UK.
Heather Ogburn, of HMS Heroes, which supports the children of service families, said it was “lovely” to meet the Earl of Wessex.
“We told him about the number of children involved and he is going to meet some of those children [today],” she said. “It was a lovely experience.”
One guest, the South Atlantic Medal Association’s Mark Davis, had even smuggled some special beer into the reception as a gift for the prince.
The bottle of ale had been brewed specially to commemorate 30 years since the Falklands conflict – and was gratefully received, Mr Davis said.
“I’ve been weighed down with it all night in my inside pocket,” he added. “I was a bit apprehensive about doing it but luckily he was happy to accept it.
“He said thanks and that he would drink it later.”
Prince Edward attended the event as the president of Seafarers UK, which provides £2.5million of grants each year to maritime-related good causes.
They can range from charities helping past and present military personnel, such as Combat Stress, to support networks for fishermen and merchant sailors.
Seafarers UK chairman Peter Wilkinson said he could think of “no better city” to host today’s celebrations.
He described Plymouth as “an iconic maritime city”.
Mr Wilkinson added: “It’s Plymouth that has been on the frontline of our island nation to this day.”
Meanwhile, Cllr Wright paid tribute to the “professionalism, dedication and courage” of the city’s service personnel.
MPs, council leaders, business figures and senior police officers were among those to watch a rousing finale to the evening by Her Majesty’s Royal Marines band.