The Princess Royal has helped lead the celebrations for Armed Forces Day, as the country thanks military personnel for their service during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anne and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, joined servicemen and women at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on Saturday.
Some 100 service personnel and their families were invited for a special VIP lunch to thank them for their efforts over the past year.
Many servicemen and women attending have played key roles in the UK’s pandemic response, from driving ambulances to supporting the vaccine rollout.
The princess, 70, dressed in uniform, was pictured smiling and laughing at the event, which featured a flypast by the Red Arrows.
Physical and virtual celebrations are being held across the country to mark this year’s Armed Forces Day – an annual celebration of serving troops, their families, veterans and cadets.
Their work was also feted on social media, with the royal family’s official Twitter account carrying a message of thanks to “every regular, reserve, cadet and veteran” who has served with the armed forces.
A tweet from the official account of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall said: “Since the start of the pandemic, our Armed Forces have been there to help the nation through the difficult times, from setting up Covid-19 testing sites to supporting the NHS by assisting ambulance workers.
“Thank you all for your service.”
In London, Armed Forces Day, now in its 30th year, was marked with electronic billboards at Piccadilly Circus displaying portraits of armed forces personnel that thanked them for their service.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosted military personnel in the Downing Street rose garden earlier this week, and he also visited 4th Battalion The Rifles at New Normandy Barracks in Aldershot.
Mr Johnson said: “I’m immensely proud that the UK is defended by without doubt the finest armed services you’ll find anywhere in the world.
“Our fantastic men and women in uniform are the best trained, the best led, the most dedicated bunch of people you will ever meet.
“This year we have witnessed the full breadth of what the armed forces can do – from being on the front line in our fight against Covid to work fighting terrorism, delivering aid and flying the flag for the UK internationally.
“This Armed Forces Day, on behalf of the nation, I want to say a huge thank you for everything you do. We owe you more than I can ever say.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Every day, men and women in our Armed Forces put their lives on the line to save others.
“You are the best of our country. The Labour Party will always stand with you.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Our personnel are defence’s greatest asset and their work over the last year, both at home and overseas, is testament to that.
“This Armed Forces Day, I hope the whole nation will come together to thank the entire armed forces community for everything they do and the sacrifices they make to defend our way of life.”
The Armed Forces Day National Event will be hosted by Scarborough in 2022 after this year’s event was postponed.
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