THOUSANDS of families gathered at Faringdon Road Park to celebrate Swindon’s first Armed Forces’ Day.

The park was packed with rides, games and activities including face painting and a 25ft climbing wall.

Members of the Army Cadet Force were mingling with the crowds talking to youngsters about what the cadets have to offer.

Mum-of-three Nicki Styles said the event was a perfect day out for the family.

The 36-year-old from Mannington Park, Rodbourne, said: “It’s a great idea for Armed Forces Day because it gets everyone out and for some, gives them an education about what the Armed Forces are really all about.

“It really brought back some memories of the very community-orientated side of the services that I saw when my dad was in the RAF and shows people that there’s more to the Armed Forces than what you might see on the telly.”

Nicki’s son Bradley, 12, has just joined Swindon ACF and says it’s a great way of learning new skills.

“They do lots of things like shooting and drill and it’s better than any other clubs,” he said.

Brave youngsters queued for hours to get harnessed up for the ACFs climbing wall.

Staff Sgt Mark Dyer said the attraction had proved to be a real hit.

“It’s good to see so many people out,” he said. “It’s important that we recognise our Armed Forces with occasions like this and it gives people the opportunity to learn about something they may not otherwise pay much attention to.

Among the events at the Armed Forces’ Day fair was a falconry display in the centre of the park and motorbike display team the Imps, who wowed audiences with their skills.

Nine-year-old Holly King, of Kingshill, Old Town, said she loved the show.

“It was really funny,” she said.

“The riders were chasing each other and jumping up in the air, it was really good.”

Normandy veterans Albert Williams and John Cowlard could be seen strolling around the park in their smart blue blazers which were dripping with campaign medals.

“A friend asked us to be here today and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” said Mr Williams from Curzon Park, Calne.

“Armistice day is something we should always remember and commemorate but to have an Armed Forces’ Day means that we’re not just honouring our soldiers in death but in life too.”

The 88-year-old added: “A good old-fashioned event like this brings back such fond memories of the old Army family days where everyone would meet up and have a good time.

“Our boys are doing so much abroad at the moment and having a special day for them shows that we support them. The turn-out shows just that.”