Armed Forces Day took place on the 31st of June 2018, based on the historical seafront of Llandudno. The shows main priority is to show off all the realms of the UK military showing, army, Navy and the Royal Air Force Giving the British Public a chance to say thank you and to get involved and interact with many military figures from the lowest JNCO ranks to the highest ranks of the British military. Quarter of a million people attended this event, including Prime Minister Theresa May and her Royal Highness Princess Anne.
One of the main themes for this year's armed forces day was of course the RAF 100, this took place in the form of a massive amount of Royal Air Force presence within the viewing village and within the flying element as well. There were four elements that the Royal Air Force participated in, the first of which being the Royal Air Force aerobatic team the Red Arrows. The Red Arrows display as per usual were flawless, putting on a full display and having the perfect weather to do this, the flying formations in the first half of the display wowing the crowd with precision and timing. A key highlight for me, as i have seen the arrows a few times this year, is the display manoeuvre called 'Tornado', being a personal favourite of mine since first being used by Jim Turner in his final year with the Red's and as always been a Manoeuvre that caught my eye due to the colour in the overall display of it. Of course the second half display was as great as ever, however one point to make about the second half of the Red Arrows display was that the display had to be pushed further out over the sea, this is due to the surroundings of the Crowd centre line, so this meant that when the synchro pair were doing their passes they were further out than the first half of the display. That said, the Red Arrows overall displays were perfection at its highest.
The next flying display was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF). One key thing to point out was that a lot of people from the crowd simply went off once the Red Arrows finish their display, now this is from a purist point of view, i was very disappointed that not many people wanted to watch the BBMF do what they do best, and that people didn't have a few spare minutes to watch some of the greatest aircraft put on a display for you. That said the BBMF did not do their Trenchard display but did their traditional three ship of Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane. The Hurricane was PZ865, she is the last Hurricane ever to have been built. This aircraft represents Hurricane Mk IIC HW840, coded 'EG-S', of 34 Sqn, South East Asia Command during 1944, the personal aircraft of Canadian pilot, Flight Lieutenant Jimmy Whalen DFC.
The Lancaster, PA474 is one of only two Lancaster aircraft remaining in airworthy condition out of the 7,377 that were built (the other is in Canada with the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum at Hamilton, Ontario). PA474 rolled off the production line at the Vickers Armstrong Broughton factory at Hawarden Airfield, Chester on 31 May 1945, just after the war in Europe came to an end, so she was prepared for use against the Japanese as part of the 'Tiger Force'. However, the war in the Far East also ended before she was deployed and she did not take part in any hostilities.
The Spitfire was, the Mk LFIXe Spitfire, MK356, which was built in March 1944 with clipped wings optimised for low level flight, and fitted with a Merlin 66 engine. Allocated to the Royal Canadian Air Force 144 wing, based in various locations around southern England, she took part in the Rodeo fighter sweep over occupied France in the weeks leading up to D-Day. After the war she served as a gate guardian at Hawkinge and Locking, and was recovered and refurbished in 1992 for the BBMF. As of 2008, she is displayed in a silver paint scheme used in late 1944 fighter/bomber missions over the Balkans from bases in Southern Italy.
Overall, I found the Battle of Britain display to be as great as ever, being a hardened Air Show veteran and having seen the BBMF display before in this format display, I found it to be wonderful and put smiles on young and old and within the historical setting off Llandudno it worked really well.
After the BBMF displayed there was a short break, which was broken by the thunder of the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4. Flt Lt Jim Peterson and 29 Squadron's Typhoon GR4, thundered in from the right hand side, initially being hidden by the cliff side, to a rousing cheer and applause of the watching crowd. The Typhoon is a highly capable and extremely agile multi-role combat aircraft. It was initially deployed in the air-to-air role as the Typhoon F.2 but now has a potent, precision multi-role capability as the Typhoon FGR4. This concluded the flying element of Armed Forces Day, however there were a few parachute teams that would be taking part and landing in the display Arena.
The Display Arena was set out within the airfield on the outskirts of Llandudno and was used to display all varieties of acts throughout the whole of the military. A highlight for me was the unarmed combat display by the Royal Marines who put on a fantastic display and received a marvellous crowd reaction. Also there were three parachute elements within the display Arena including the RLC Silver Stars, the Royal Navy Raiders and the RAF Falcons, all fantastic parachute displays ranging from 5,000 feet all the way up to 12,000 feet by the RAF Falcons.
This was the 7th annual Armed Forces Day and is being built up and up over the years, becoming more and more popular with a bigger crowd attending year upon year. For me being an airshow purist, it's a double edge sword, it's great to see all the flying elements that the RAF put on, but in this one hundred years of the Royal Air Force, i found it disappointing that we didn't have any more vintage elements, having the likes of the strikemaster which is based at Hawarden and having many vintage aircraft in North Wales, the fact that we couldn't get more vintage aircraft and more aircraft to show off for the RAF 100 was extremely disappointing. If you're going there for the flying element you're going to be disappointed, but if looking for something different with not just flying elements but all aspects of the military, and be able to talk to the people on the ground, it is a fantastic opportunity to meet all realms of the military. So overall I found Armed Forces Day to be extremely intriguing and to be an overall enjoyable day.
Article and photos by Cody Froggatt.