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By land, sea and air – Senior Service impresses crowds at Bournemouth festival

By land, sea and air – Senior Service impresses crowds at Bournemouth festival
5 September 2023
Foul weather ruled out any flying on the opening day of Bournemouth Air Festival, but once the clouds cleared, the displays for the remaining three days took place with aplomb.

There were no front-line RN aircraft in the skies – they were heavily committed to operations or gearing up for this autumn’s carrier deployments – leaving vintage Fleet Air Arm machines to take centre stage, notably the Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber from WW2 and a more recent Westland Wasp helicopter, both provided by from Navy Wings, who performed as a pair and separately.

The sands – or a stretch of them – did belong to the Senior Service courtesy of a ‘Navy Village’ where some of the hundreds of thousands of visitors could chat with Royal Marines and sailors and learn about their work worldwide, and watch the commandos’ Viking armoured vehicles rumble around a display arena.
Offshore, P2000s HMS Exploit and Ranger made the short trip from their temporary home in Poole Harbour to carry affiliates and visitors to Bournemouth Bay as part of their engagement duties for the weekend.

And those who hung around in the resort until the day’s end – flying or not – were the Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth performing a Beat the Retreat in the lower gardens, as well as a thrilling un-armed combat display from the Commando Recruitment team.

Aside from the RN presence past and present, the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial flight, a modern-day Typhoon and Chinook, and traditional crowdpleasers the Red Arrows grab the attention in the skies alongside visiting civilian and military aircraft from around the globe.

Brigadier Jock Fraser Royal Marines, the Royal Navy’s Regional Commander for Wales, Western England and the Channel Islands, attended the opening ceremony – held indoors due to the first day’s inclement weather – said the event remained “a hugely important entry in the Royal Navy engagement calendar”.


He continued: “It provides a fantastic opportunity for our sailors and Royal Marines to interact with the communities we serve.

“We had encouraging welcome to the Royal Navy village on the beach, and the public got up close with some of the equipment we use and asked our sailors and Royal Marines what it is like to serve around the globe today. It was a particular pleasure that the festival evening programme began daily in naval style with a Beating Retreat performance in the Lower Gardens from His Majesty’s Royal Marines Band.”

Jon Weaver, Air Festival Director, BCP Council commented: “Once again, we’ve had a fantastic Bournemouth Air Festival and I’m always incredibly proud of the team who have worked tirelessly over the last few weeks to ensure its success.

“Although the weather on Thursday caused a slight setback, summer arrived in spectacular style which meant the number of people enjoying the festival over the last few days may well have got close to breaking our record attendance figures.”


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