THRONGS of people saluted military heroes past and present at the Swindon Armed Forces Day celebrations on Saturday.

The day saw performances from the Great Western Youth Band, a parachute display team, as well as the Britannia Majorettes and Second World War re-enactments.

Barry Wicks, 68, who served as a physical training instructor with the Army Air Corps in Germany for ten years, and Chris Leggett, 73, who spent 37 years in the RAF were among the small committee of volunteers to organise the action-packed event to show support for men and women in the armed forces community.

And it has taken them almost a year to plan after deciding to move it to a new venue in the grounds of Swindon Rugby Football Club in Greenbridge Road.

Throughout the day families enjoyed a dog show, pie eating competition, face painting, a car boot sale and there were military based charities offering advice and support.

Chris, who lives in Toothill, said: “The Army and Air Force deserve to have a day just devoted to their appreciation and it inspires the younger generation. We’ve got lots of cadets here all the way through to regulars and reservists.

“We had 3,500 at the event last year and we are hoping to exceed that amount as the Swindon Rugby Club have more space.

“We’ve got music, we’ve got the Army and different businesses and charities lined up in stalls, a classic car show and motorbike show."

Among the charities and groups there were Help for Heroes, 162 Regiment The Royal Logistics Corps, Royal Wessex Yeomanry and Swindon Sea Cadets.

Cadet Ellie May Mapplethorp, 14, from the Wiltshire Army Cadet Force, said: “It’s turned out really well. Some of us are doing a drill in the arena and others are doing fieldcraft.”

Lisa Hannaway, who runs Swing Style, got in on the act too by entertaining onlookers with some Lindy Hop and Balboa dancing.

The 44-year-old from Minety said: “We were asked to come along and show people the sort of dancing they used to do.

“Everyone thinks it will be hard but it’s not because we do it step-by-step and it’s surprising how quick people can pick it up. It is great fun and really popular.”

One of those to be watching as Lisa and Alan McGurk took to the dancefloor was war veteran Allan Thipthorpe, 90, of Queens Drive, who said it brought back memories of when he and his late wife were younger.

Sergeant Brian Hinton, 66, who is chairman of the charity Wiltshire Home Guard paraded a rifle, known as a ‘smiley’ to the crowds. But he left the explosives he usually brings for unexploded bomb displays at home on this occasion.

He said: “Armed Forces Day is particularly important to us, all being ex-servicemen, it makes people realise we are not just here for the bad times but for the good times as well and it gives youngsters an idea of what we do.”