Page last updated at 11:20 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 12:20 UK

TA and RAF mark key anniversaries

Soldiers board an RAF Chinook in August 2005
"Low-key" celebrations for the RAF will be held in Afghanistan and Iraq

Britain's Territorial Army (TA) is marking 100 years of service, while the RAF celebrates its 90th anniversary.

Celebratory cannons were fired in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast at 1130 BST for the TA and the Queen praised its "remarkable record".

RAF events include a fly-past of Red Arrows and Typhoons in London, and a banquet, to be held at the RAF Museum.

Meanwhile, the government is launching a strategic review of the modern role of the reserve forces.

It is a century since the first units of the Territorial Force - which became the TA - were "stood up" as a home defence force.

Praising the record of those serving with the TA, the Queen said: "The 100th anniversary of the Territorial Army is reason for great celebration and pride.

I wish to express my gratitude to every member of the Territorial Army, serving and retired, for your remarkable record of service to the nation
The Queen

"Throughout the century, volunteers have served this country with selfless duty and courage, through two world wars and many other operations, and they have been supported in this by their families, society and employers."

She said this service tradition had "never been more vital to the Army than now".

The monarch said she admired the way in which, in recent years, "so many Territorials have volunteered to serve on operations around the world or to support the work of those who are deployed".

"I wish to express my gratitude to every member of the Territorial Army, serving and retired, for your remarkable record of service to the nation," she said.

Defence Secretary Des Browne and the British Army Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, attended the Tower of London event.

The simultaneous Feu de Joie (cannon firing) signalled the start of several months of events.

Nearly 15,000 reservists have served alongside the regular army in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003, with eight killed in action and others injured.

Pte Luke Cole
TA soldier Pte Luke Cole was awarded the Military Cross

This year, 1,500 TA soldiers will be sent on operations, accounting for 8% of the total number of Army troops deployed.

Last month Private Luke Cole, 22, a TA soldier from Wolverhampton, was awarded the Military Cross for his heroism in Afghanistan.

Attached to the Mercian Regiment, he gave first aid to wounded colleagues while continuing to return fire against the Taliban, having been shot twice himself.

The defence secretary paid tribute to Territorial veterans and thanked those currently in service, as well as offering condolences for those who had lost their lives.

Mr Browne said: "The men and women of the TA serve side by side with their Regular counterparts, taking part in the same operations and facing the same risks and dangers."

Meanwhile, Gen Sir Richard praised members of the TA for making "considerable personal sacrifices" in British operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and their "indispensable support to current operations".

Last month the prime minister announced there would be a review of the country's reserve forces, as part of its wider National Security Strategy.

Gordon Brown said the government would examine how they could play a greater role in the stabilisation and reconstruction of post-conflict zones.

Other events to mark the anniversary include parades across the country and a garden party at Buckingham Palace in July.

Sunset ceremony

To mark the RAF's birthday, members of the Red Arrows flew in formation with four Typhoon aircraft along the River Thames.

The fly-past started south of London City Airport, passing the O2, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and Tate Modern art gallery, and finishing at the London Eye.

Later, the RAF Museum was to host a banquet in London for the Duke of Edinburgh and Air Force chiefs.

An RAF spokeswoman said that "low-key" celebrations would be held in Afghanistan and Iraq, including a sunset ceremony, to mark the date.

In addition, a number of books have been written to coincide with the anniversary including RAF Day By Day, Fighting Force and Britain's Aviation Heritage.

The RAF was created when the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) merged.

The start of the Royal Air Force's celebrations was marked on Monday when a Chinook helicopter delivered badges to 25 veterans.

Between them the servicemen had flown in all major conflicts since WWII.




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SEE ALSO
Flypast to mark RAF anniversary
01 Apr 08 |  London
Heroes awarded the Military Cross
07 Mar 08 |  West Midlands

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