A SOMBRE gathering of people met at Basingstoke War Memorial to honour the town’s war heroes as part of a national event.

War veterans, councillors and members of the public attended the flag-raising ceremony outside the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council offices on Monday, to mark Armed Forces Day.

The day aims to raise public awareness of the contribution made by those who serve and have served in the armed forces and it gives the nation an opportunity to show its support for veterans, serving troops and their families.

A bugler signalled the start and end of a one-minute silence, before the Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, Councillor Roger Gardiner, placed a wreath on behalf of the borough at the War Memorial.

The Mayor’s Chaplain, Reverend Karen Wellman, addressed the crowd and said a prayer for war veterans and current servicemen and women who have fought in conflicts, including both world wars and in Afghanistan.

A flag was raised by Hampshire County Councillor for Tadley and Baughurst and former Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, Warwick Lovegrove, at the ceremony organised by the Basingstoke and Overton Royal British Legion branch.

Cllr Gardiner told The Gazette: “It is great to be able to do something like this and it is really important we do remember the armed forces and what they do and the sacrifice they have made. It is important for residents everywhere to remember the armed forces and not just in our borough.”

Chairman of the Basingstoke and Overton Royal British Legion, Bill Sample added: “It is very important and this marks the start of the official Armed Forces Day on Saturday.

“It recognises all that the veterans have done in conflicts such as World War One and World War Two.”

To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, gardeners from the borough council sowed red poppies at the entrance to War Memorial Park and near woodland inside the park, which bloomed just in time for Armed Forces Day.

Cllr Roger Gardiner said: “The poppy beds will provide a focus for quiet reflection this summer and I encourage everyone to visit our War Memorial and to stop a while in the park while the poppies are in bloom.”