Defence Secretary invites D-Day veterans to 75th anniversary

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has written an open letter to veterans of the Normandy Landings inviting them to take part in D-Day75, the commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.


The Ministry of Defence has planned a series of major events with The Royal British Legion and Portsmouth City Council to mark the anniversary. Veterans of the Normandy Landings will be the VIPs of these events, ensuring that the whole country has the opportunity to thank this extraordinary generation.

Events Programme

Commonly referred to as D-Day, the Normandy Landings began on 6 June 1944, when allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on occupied Europe. Events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the operation will be held in Normandy and around the UK this June.

The full programme of events will be announced at a launch event at The D-Day Story in Portsmouth on Wednesday 16 January 2019.

A letter from the Secretary of State for Defence, The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP

To the veterans of Normandy; the sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen who helped pave the way for the liberation of Europe,

Her Majesty’s Government is proud to announce plans to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings planned for June 2019, when the eyes of the world will be upon you once more. Your actions in 1944 were the vital springboard to the liberation of Europe and the end of the Second World War. The breathtaking bravery and ingenuity you showed during those days still echo through our nation’s armed forces and society as a whole.

This year, veterans of the Normandy campaign have been invited to register with The Royal British Legion to take part in the official commemorations. The Royal British Legion has announced that a ship has been specially chartered to provide a fully-funded tour for around 300 Normandy veterans from 2 June to 9 June. Each veteran can bring one carer who will also be fully funded by the Legion and Libor grants distributed by the Government.

Veterans will be the VIPs of the commemorations and we want as many of you as possible to be able to mark this major anniversary. The Ministry of Defence, The Royal British Legion and our many fellow delivery partners are working together to let veterans know what is being planned, and to encourage them to register their interest to take part. We also call upon members of the general public to take part in commemorations in both the UK and France and to help us locate Normandy veterans they may know of.

Portsmouth will be the location of the national events in the UK and the Ministry of Defence, in conjunction with Portsmouth City Council and The Royal British Legion, is planning a series of events to reflect the area’s significant role in the preparation of one of the most audacious operations in military history.

Official commemorations will start with a ceremonial event on Portsmouth’s Southsea Common on the 5 June commencing a full 5 days of activity, including flypasts, military parades, festivals, music and more. Before sunset on 5 June, the specially-chartered ship will transport veterans across the channel to Normandy. Once there, key events will include The Royal British Legion’s services at Bayeux Cathedral and the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Bayeux Cemetery before an evening of entertainment in Arromanches. Throughout the commemorations, current serving personnel from our armed forces will be there to assist veterans in both the UK and in France.

Five years ago, the President of France advised the Ministry of Defence that it wished to award the Légion d’Honneur, their highest honour, to all surviving Normandy veterans. Since then, we have processed 6,000 applications. If there are any of you who have not yet applied, then please do in order that you too can wear the medal with pride.

To register for the commemorations and apply for a place on the ship please visit The Royal British Legion’s website. To apply for a Légion d’Honneur or learn more of events happening in Normandy and the UK please visit GOV.UK.

It is our intention that this June we show you, our special generation, that we will never forget the debt we owe for the peace and freedom we now enjoy.



New figures reveal changes to the UK’s veteran population

The plaque outside the South Door of the Ministry of Defence Main Building in Whitehall, London.

New figures released by the MOD provide an insight into how the UK’s veteran population will change over the next decade.

The figures show that over the next ten years, the number of former service personnel in Great Britain is expected to decrease by around 1 million, to approximately 1.6 million by 2028. Estimates put the number of former service personnel currently residing in Britain at around 2.5 million. As well as the reduction in size, the age and gender profile of the ex-forces community is also expected to change. The percentage of veterans of working age, between 16-64, is projected to rise from 38% to 44%, while the percentage of women is set to increase from 10% to 13%.


The new data projections will inform the first ‘Strategy for our Veterans’, jointly published by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, which sets out the key areas of support for those who have left the armed forces. Published in November 2018, the strategy identified six key areas where support is most needed over the next ten years, including: community and relationships, employment and skills, health and wellbeing, finance and debt, housing, and contact with the law. The UK Government consultation complementing the strategy is open until 21st February. All relevant Government departments have a responsibility to ensure that the military community is treated fairly, and not disadvantaged by their service as part of the Armed Forces Covenant. This includes access to housing and healthcare, as well as employment and education support.


The 2021 census, which will for the first time allow citizens to identify whether they have served, will work alongside these new projected figures to help local authorities to better understand the needs of the veterans community, and to support them in the most efficient way.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said:

The figures reveal important insight into the potential needs of our future veteran community, and will help us to continue to step up our support for those who have served this country.

While the vast majority of ex-service personnel go to live happy, healthy and successful lives, it’s right that we work across Governments to make sure veterans can access the services they need.

This week, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that all social housing applicants will be given the chance to identify themselves as veterans, and those struggling with mental health will be given the same priority as their peers with physical injuries.


Last year, NHS England confirmed that every part of the country now has dedicated mental health services up and running for veterans, and announced the first 25 hospitals to become ‘Veteran Aware’, delivering specialist healthcare support to those who have served. This will be supported by £10 million of investment as part of the NHS’s long term plan. Any veteran in need of advice can call the Veterans’ Gateway – a 24 hour helpline which acts as the first port of call for ex-service personnel and their families. The MOD has announced that the Gateway’s 24/7 helpline will trial a new outreach service where it will proactively call those who have served, to check in on their wellbeing and remind them of where support can be found.


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BFBS Brings More British Programming to U.K. Troops

Greater numbers of British forces and their families stationed abroad, including Royal Navy ships at sea, will receive a range of popular British TV and radio programming from the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) via SES satellites in a new multi-year agreement announced by SES.

Closer to Home

The increased capacity will enable BFBS to continue to deliver more popular British entertainment and sporting content across the globe, from Canada in the north-west and Falkland Islands in the south, across Europe and Africa and all the way to Brunei in the Far East. The service is an important part of making British forces and their families feel a little closer to home during deployments.

Supply Welfare

BFBS’s mix of popular news, sport and entertainment programming will be delivered via SES’s NSS-12 and SES-6 satellites. BFBS operates as part of SSVC (Services Sound and Vision Corporation), a not-for-profit charity, under a ten-year contract with the UK Ministry of Defence to supply welfare by radio and TV worldwide.
“Bringing the best of British TV and Radio to our armed services around the world has an incredibly positive impact on their morale and welfare, especially when they are separated from loved ones and home life for months on end,” said Ryan Lambert, Chief Technical Officer, BFBS. “It’s great that we can now deliver more content and more channels than ever before to our forces posted around the globe via SES.”
“Our partnership with SSVC spans many years,” said Ferdinand Kayser, CEO of SES Video.  “This newest agreement extends our ability to improve the lives of British Forces by bringing them more of the creature comforts of home – wherever they are stationed, including ships in the South China Sea and Eastern Pacific. We feel privileged that we can help to improve the health and well-being of service personnel and their families through the unmatched reach and reliability of our global fleet, together with the unbeatable radio and television content available from BFBS.”

About SES

SES is the world’s leading satellite operator with over 70 satellites in two different orbits, Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). It provides a diverse range of customers with global video distribution and data connectivity services through two business units: SES Video and SES Networks.

SES Video reaches over 351 million TV homes, through Direct-to-Home (DTH) platforms and cable, terrestrial, and IPTV networks globally. The SES Video portfolio includes MX1, a leading media service provider offering a full suite of innovative services for both linear and digital distribution, and the ASTRA satellite system, which has the largest DTH television reach in Europe.

SES Networks provides global managed data services, connecting people in a variety of sectors including telecommunications, maritime, aeronautical, and energy, as well as governments and institutions across the world. The SES Networks portfolio includes GovSat, a 50/50 public-private partnership between SES and the Luxembourg government, and O3b, the only non-geostationary system delivering fibre-like broadband services today. Further information is available at:

About BFBS

BFBS is part of SSVC, a global, not-for-profit media organisation that informs, entertains, connects and champions the UK Armed Forces. Its TV, radio and digital services offer a long-established lifeline to our forces stationed overseas – and a highly valued entertainment and information hub to the wider military community here in the UK.

Forces Radio BFBS is on FM and DAB+ in the UK, on Sky 0211, Freesat 786, online at via the free BFBS Radio app, and on FM across the forces world.

BFBS TV is a unique mix of the best of current British TV available to all entitled personnel worldwide. BBC One and ITV are alongside live sport from Sky and BT, with additional top-flight action on the bespoke BFBS Sport channel. Movie premieres, high-end drama and comedy are sourced from more than 40 UK broadcasters and worldwide distributors, and are available around the clock on BFBS Extra.


Concerns Raised Over Number Of Troops Fit For Deployment

The Ministry of Defence has responded to concerns about the number of personnel fit for overseas deployment by stating it has “enough people to perform their operational requirements”. As many as 7,200 troops are not currently medically fit enough to be sent abroad, a Freedom of Information request by the Times has revealed. A further 9,910 service personnel are exempted from certain tasks when out on exercises or operations for medical reasons.  

A spokesperson for the MOD said:

“Individuals are medically downgraded for a wide variety of reasons, most of which are minor health concerns that don’t prevent personnel from fulfilling their core duties.

“The Armed Forces have enough people to perform their operational requirements to keep Britain safe.”

Anonymous troops

Troops are divided into three categories; those who are fit for duty without any employment limitations are classed as Medically Fully Deployable (MFD). Medically Limited Deployable (MLD) service personnel are those with only minor ailments, such as sports injuries or ingrown toenails.

Fit for Deployment

This group is deemed in general fit for deployment with only minor limitations on what duties they may perform. A third category, Medically Not Deployable (MND), includes those personnel who are pregnant or have more serious conditions. Other troops that may not be deployed include those who are under the age of 18 and those who have not completed the appropriate training.

Military Wants Reservists With ‘Indiana Jones Flair’ For New Unit

A special unit to protect or retrieve ancient treasures is being formed by the British Army. The 15-strong Cultural Property Protection Unit will be made up of reservists from all three services with what the Royal Navy say have “a flair for Indiana Jones-style adventure”. The need for such a specialist unit is largely due to so-called Islamic State, which has destroyed numerous historic sites in the Middle East, including Iraq’s Nimrud palace, mosques in Mosul and certain Roman ruins in Palmyra.

Threat Finance

The unit will be tasked with retrieving works stolen by terrorists, investigations into looting, the protection of ancient objects and reporting on sites of interest to the British military. Restricting the flow of money to terrorist organisations will also be a key objective. “Looting and selling antiquities has been proven as a fund-raising method for terrorist groups,” said the unit’s commander – and only current member – Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick, who served in the Gulf War before becoming an arts dealer. “Part of our job is about preventing ‘threat finance’ – you have an adversary extracting cultural property from the region you are operating in and then, in effect, sending it back at you in the form of bombs and bullets.”

Tactical Level

People with backgrounds as curators, art specialists, archaeologists and investigators are being urged to consider signing up.  “Our staff could find themselves out on an exercise doing operational planning or sitting at a border, checking vehicles for stolen artefacts,” said Lt Col Purbrick. “There’s a strong possibility we’ll be working with allies such as the French out in somewhere like Mali where they are trying to prevent antiquities being smuggled out of the country.” He has identified a historic building inspector from the Royal Navy Reserve and an Arabic-speaking archaeologist in the Army reserve as possible new recruits. “I’m looking for experts in art, archaeology and art crime investigation, leaders in their field who are able to deploy on operations down to the tactical level,” he added.


Where Are The Armed Forces Deployed This Christmas?

While families at home celebrate Christmas, thousands of troops will be working to keep Britain safe and protect the country’s interests.

Christmas is all about spending time with our loved ones. However, there are some groups of people that every year sacrifice this joyful day for a higher purpose. Among them are the Armed Forces. This year, 11,000 sailors, soldiers, airmen and Royal Marines will be deployed on operations over the festive period. They are deployed in multiple continents on 35 operations in 30 countries across the globe, from Somalia and South Sudan to Kuwait and Ukraine.

The Armed Forces will also be busy at home. The Squadrons of the UK’s Quick Reaction Alert will be on duty at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby, many of them ready in their green flight suits waiting for the call to scramble and protect UK airspace. Also on duty will be troops of the Household Division, keeping guard outside Royal residences in London and Windsor.

On Alert

Currently, around 1,000 people are working to fight Daesh and train the local security forces from locations in Iraq and the wider Middle East as well as from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. Almost 1,000 Army personnel are in Afghanistan training British allies. In the South Atlantic, over 1,000 personnel are stationed in the Falkland Islands along with survey ship HMS Protector. While in the Caribbean, RFA Mounts Bay has been on alert over the hurricane season and remains overseas.


In Europe, 150 UK personnel of the Queen’s Royal Hussars are deployed to Poland and around 850 British personnel of the 1 YORKS are deployed in Estonia on NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) deployment. In Africa, the 120 Army troops are deployed to wildlife  reserves in Malawi to assist local forces with counter-poaching and halt the population decline of many of Africa’s animals, including elephants, rhinos and lions. Troops will also be in peacekeeping missions in Somalia and South Sudan. In Mali,RAF Chinook helicopters from RAF Odiham are supported by around 90 British troops to support French counter-terrorism operations.


Next Census Will Collect Veterans’ Information For First Time

The data collected will be used to support the Armed Forces Covenant, ensuring specific public services can be implemented.


The next census will collect information on Armed Forces’ veterans for the first time, it has been announced. Details about how the 2021 census will be run have been set out in a white paper on Friday. A new question will be introduced in the digital-first census with the aim to identify those people, aged 16 and over, who are serving or have ever served in the military. The data collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will be used to support the Armed Forces Covenant, ensuring specific public services can be implemented where they are needed.


The Sun Military Awards 2018 reward armed forces heroes

News Group Newspapers Ltd

The Millies congratulate winners for feats of courage and sacrifice with a glittering awards ceremony at Banqueting House. The Sun Military Awards 2018 – known as the Millies – have recognised the true excellence of the UK’s armed forces with a star-studded ceremony at London’s Banqueting House. The 11th annual ceremony awarded prizes to winners from the Royal Navy, Army and RAF, recognising remarkable feats of bravery, sacrifice and selflessness.


Six members of 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards won the Hero Overseas award for their lifesaving first aid response during the Las Vegas shooting last year, where 59 people lost their lives. The young soldiers bravely stepped in and used their battlefield training to aid the emergency services. England manager Gareth Southgate attended the awards ceremony to present the Inspiring Others award to Major Scott Mills of the Royal Marines, who helped prepare the England men’s football team ahead of their historic World Cup campaign this year.


Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who hosted the nominees at a reception at 10 Downing Street ahead of the awards show, said:

It was a great honour to attend The Sun Military Awards and congratulate so many of the winners and nominees in person. The incredible stories told tonight show how our armed forces protect British people and our interests at home and abroad.

Whether by rescuing civilians from conflict, helping Salisbury recover from a reckless chemical attack or standing up to the appalling use of chemical weapons in Syria, tonight’s nominees have shown the brilliance and bravery of our armed forces. I’m grateful to The Sun for helping the whole country congratulate these remarkable serving personnel and those who support them in their vital work.


Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier accepted the Judges’ Award for Special Recognition on behalf of the Royal Air Force for RAF100 and its success in celebrating the RAF’s centenary year. The nominees rubbed shoulders with famous faces on the red carpet, including armed forces supporters Nick Knowles, Bear Grylls and Dame Kelly Holmes and sports stars Victoria Pendleton, Amy Williams and Thom Evans. Television stars Georgia Toffolo, Emily Atack and Vicky Pattison also attended to show their support.

The winners of The Sun Military Awards 2018 are:

Hero at Home – Individual

Commander Andrew Parkinson – for rescuing a woman trapped underwater beneath a yacht in a Hampshire marina

Hero at Home – Unit

Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Task Force – for their response to the Salisbury attack

Hero Overseas – Individual

Lance Corporal Chris May, Troopers Stuart Finlay, Ross Woodward, James Astbury, Zak Davidson and Dean Priestley – for their medical response to the Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in American history

Hero Overseas – Unit

HMS Daring – for withstanding danger and aggression guarding vital shipping routes around the world

Best Reservist

Corporal Isabell Hutchinson – for sensitively preventing a young woman from taking her own life

Inspiring Others

Major Scott Mills – for his training of the England men’s football team ahead of the 2018 World Cup

Overcoming Adversity

Robert Long – for his success in Jiu-Jitsu since being blinded by an IED in Afghanistan

Innovation Award

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory – for its work on a sepsis diagnosis breakthrough

Support to the Armed Forces

There But Not There – for its success in commemorating the First World War and raising money for service charities

Judges’ Award for Special Recognition

RAF100 – for its success in celebrating the centenary of the Royal Air Force and inspiring a new generation