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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 March 2008, 05:40 GMT
Calls grow for Armed Forces Day
British troops in Basra
175 UK troops have been killed in operations in Iraq
Senior military commanders, MPs and families of service personnel killed in war have lent their support to calls for an Armed Forces Day to be created.

Gen Lord Guthrie, chief of defence staff under Tony Blair, told the Sunday Telegraph it was "a marvellous idea".

Tory MP Patrick Mercer said it would be a chance to thank servicemen and women.

The calls come after a survey by the Art Fund charity suggested two-thirds of Britons felt too little was done to recognise their sacrifices.

The charity said 70% of the 2,082 adults it surveyed in January also supported the idea of issuing a series of stamps, dedicated to each person who has died, by official war artist Steve McQueen.

'Spontaneous thanks'

Mr Mercer, himself a former army officer, said: "An Armed Forces Day is an outstanding idea and I support it 110%."

He told the paper troops should wear uniforms and ex-servicemen their medals on the day.

You have to pick your battles but this is one that should be fought. I think the public would support this too
Admiral Sir Henry Leach

"I think the idea of spontaneous thanks will chime very well with the British public," he added.

"It will reflect the sort of thing which went on in the First World War when there were national days for the wounded."

Admiral Sir Henry Leach, who led the Royal Navy during the Falklands War in 1982, also gave his full support to the idea.

"You have to pick your battles but this is one that should be fought. I think the public would support this too," he told the Telegraph.


Reg Keys, whose son Thomas was murdered by an Iraqi mob in June 2003, said: "Actions speak louder than words.

"The government keeps telling us how proud they are of our armed forces - now let them show it with an Armed Forces Day."

Armed Forces Days already exist in a number of countries including the US, Russia and Italy.

The Telegraph suggests the day could be marked by all servicemen and women wearing uniform, whether on or off-duty, open days could be held at barracks and school assemblies could highlight the role of the armed forces.

'Sacrifices integral'

Last year, Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, expressed concerns about "the growing gulf between the Army and the nation".

He suggested the work carried out by troops - and the sacrifices that form an integral part of their job - were not being acknowledged.

To date, 175 UK troops have been killed in operations in Iraq, and a further 89 have lost their lives in operations in Afghanistan since 2001.

Official war artist Steve McQueen has created a series of stamps dedicated to each member of the armed forces who has lost their life in Iraq and is calling for Royal Mail to issue them for public use.

Patick Mercer on the need to thank the Armed Forces

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