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by Jules King

Ross-on-Wye celebrated the first ever Armed Forces Day in some style last Friday evening with a celebration concert at the Larruperz Centre organized by the Ross Branch of the Royal British Legion. The concert was a 'sell out' well before it started, with additional seating having to be squeezed in and some people still not lucky enough to get tickets. The large audience enjoyed a wide variety of performances, with every age group represented both on the stage and in the audience.

The evening kicked off with a welcome from Ben Abbott, Head of Drama at John Kyrle High School and who had volunteered to be the MC for the night. He did a wonderful job, mixing humour and solemnity in just the right amount and managing to ad lib his way through a couple of 'hiccups'. Hope no-one noticed! Ben's welcome was followed by a Parade of Standards. The Parade was led by the Standard of the Ross-on-Wye and Fownhope Branches of the Royal British Legion followed by Standards of the Ross on Wye Sea Cadets, Air Cadets, Scouts and Guides. The Parade was ordered by Ian Hedges, Parade Marshall for the Ross Branch of the Legion and the Standards were received by the Mayor of Ross on Wye, Councillor John Edwards, ably assisted by a cadet from each of the three Cadet Forces. Whilst the Parade took place the Ross Town Band played 'The British Legion March.'

Continued . . .

Excerpts from Saturday's Concert for Armed Forces Day.

Following the Parade, Fred Jones, Chairman of the Ross Branch of the Legion, read the Kohima Exhortation and led the audience in a minutes silence after which the Town Band played 'The War Years.' The audience then enjoyed performances from 'The Voice Squad' who sang three pieces including 'Bridge over troubled water'. The Forest of Dean Male Voice Choir sang 'Comrades in arms', 'Sailing' and 'There's a land between two rivers' and the Ledbury Community Choir sang a medley of folk songs from the countries of the UK. In between each choir there were readings from a Brownie, Cub, Guide, Scout and Explorer Scout.

During the break fund-raising items were on sale in support of the Legion and Help for Heroes and there was a raffle of prizes donated by local businesses. The audience were also advised to buy flags for waving during the second half! After the raffle draw the audience sat down to enjoy a performance from 'Chasing Charlie' a young band of John Kyrle students. This was their first public performance and they played three songs, including 'Brothers in arms' and left the stage to loud applause. There were then readings from a cadet from each of the three Cadet Forces in the town followed by the Ledbury Community Choir who sang a medley of songs from 'Les Miserables' which included 'Bring Him Home' and left not a dry eye in the house. This was followed by a reading by Rachel Bushell, representing the War Widows Association and a very stirring speech by Brig. Jim Hockenhull OBE, representing Her Majesty's Armed Forces. He read the citation of a soldier decorated for his bravery in Iraq and a message from The Queen to her subjects on Armed Forces Day.

During the finale of the evening, the MC told the audience that loud singing and vigorous flag-waving was compulsory! If the singing wasn't loud enough - well, they'd just have to do it all again!! He needn't have worried as the Choirs and Town Band led the audience in a rousing chorus of 'Jerusalem' and 'Land of Hope and Glory'. The whole audience were on their feet, singing at the top of their voices and waving Union Jacks for all they were worth. The Standards were then retrieved from the Mayor as the Town Band played 'Nimrod' and the Parade formed along the sides of the hall. The Town Band and Choirs then led the audience in 'God Save The Queen' and the MC called for 'three cheers for Her Majesty the Queen and Her Armed Forces'. It was a fitting end to an evening of celebration, pride and unashamed Britishness.

The Ross Branch of the Legion would like to thank all of the performers involved in the concert, all of whom gave of their time free of charge and gave such wonderful performances. They would also like to thank those who supported the concert; staff at the Larruperz centre who gave help and advice, local traders who displayed posters and gave raffle prizes, Multiprint who printed the programmes at cost price 'because it's for the armed forces', the Ross Lions who sponsored the programmes, the ladies who helped with refreshments and the ladies of the Womens' Section who ran the raffle. Special thanks must go to Ben Abbott who made such a brilliant job of MC and to Ian Hedges who organized the Parade. The evening was a huge success thanks to all the people who got involved, including the audience who thoroughly enjoyed it and who joined in so enthusiastically with the Proms finale - the sight of all those Union Jacks waving to the tune of Land of Hope and Glory made all of the hard work worth while.

The Forest of Dean Male Voice Choir.

The Ledbury Community Choir.

Chasing Charlie.
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