One of the early posts I wrote on this blog was about the public profile of the armed forces.  It was provoked by my recent experiences in America, and by the reporting of a speech by Sir Richard Dannart which called for a more public show of appreciation for the work of the armed forces.  The public responded almost immediately with warm homecomings for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan – no government involvement there.  Things have moved on.  Now a new report proposes a new public holiday to celebrate armed forces.  This article from the Guardian.

New report proposes a new public holiday to celebrate armed forces

The review of civil and military relations also called for a new law to make discriminating against people in military uniform a criminal offence.

The 40 recommendations include more state school cadet forces, encouraging service personnel to wear their uniforms off-duty, putting military awareness on the national curriculum and encouraging local councils to organise homecoming parades.Armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth said the report would “ensure that the work of our armed forces is better understood and recognised by the nation they serve”.
The Ministry of Defence said it would respond in detail to the recommendations later in the year but was already working on many of the proposals.

The report suggests that a Friday or Monday at the end of June would be a suitable time for an armed forces public holiday.

Ainsworth confirmed that the government was considering creating a new public holiday, adding: “We do want to take forward the proposal to recognise our armed forces.

“Whether that is a separate bank holiday of itself, whether it’s a weekend, is something we would consider.”

MP Quentin Davies, who was asked by Gordon Brown to undertake the review, denied that any of his proposals would threaten the significance of Remembrance Sunday.

“There are moments for sadness and commemoration of our heroes of the past, and there are moments to look to the future,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Davies said his inquiry had found a “divergence” between the military and civilians, with people showing less understanding as their contact with them had gone down. Former Conservative MP Davies quit the Tories to join Labour last year.

Ainsworth confirmed that the government was examining how it could implement Davies’s call for legislation making discrimination of those in military uniforms an offence, with assaults or threats of violence against anyone in uniform considered an aggravated offence.

It follows reports that personnel at RAF Wittering near Peterborough were told by senior personnel not to wear their uniforms in public for fear of abuse from people opposed to the war in Iraq.

The report also highlighted incidents including troops at Birmingham and Edinburgh airports being told to change into civilian clothes or avoid public areas, and injured veterans being abused by members of the public at a swimming pool,

Currently there are only 60 cadet forces in the comprehensive school system in England and Wales, compared with 200 in the grammar and independent sector.

However, the report’s proposal to expand them, which would see pupils who sign up given weapons training, is likely to prove highly controversial.
In March teaching unions denounced schools-based cadet forces as a questionable recruiting tactic.

The Conservatives claim the government has copied many of its own ideas.

The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, Nick Harvey, said many of the proposals were common sense and should be welcomed but he said “pageantry should not obscure the hard facts” about the way the government treated the armed forces.

“An armed forces day is welcome, but it will ring hollow for those forces families who still have to put up with sub-standard housing,” said Harvey.

General Timothy Granville-Chapman, vice-chief of the defence staff, welcomed the report, adding: “The report compliments the work going on in the services, is comprehensive and makes firm recommendations which my fellow chiefs of staff will find very useful in harnessing appropriate public recognition and understanding of what we do.”

Last year, the head of the army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, warned that a lack of public appreciation for Britain’s military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan was in danger of “sapping” the willingness of troops to serve on such dangerous operations.