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Fen town leads the way with Armed Forces Fair plans

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A Fenland town could be flying the flag for others nationwide to follow when it holds a special armed forces event next autumn.

Lt Col Nigel (Spence) Spencer, who is well-known in March for organising the annual Remembrance Day parade and commemorations, has come up with a plan to hold an Armed Forces Fair in September 2022 to help publicise the various organisations available to former, current and future service personnel.

He is being aided in the ambitious project by his former Army colleague Mark Wilding, who has acted as Spence's right-hand man in organising the Remembrance Day event for the past five years.

Lt col Nigel Spencer is behind a special event being planned in March for next autumn. (47425205)
Lt col Nigel Spencer is behind a special event being planned in March for next autumn. (47425205)

Cash donated by the Armed Forces Covenant is being used to pay for the event, which will be staged in West End Park and will be open to anybody interested in finding out more about the armed services and the various organisations there are locally.

Spence, who was the longest serving soldier in the British Army until last year, is currently an army reservist.

He explained: "In January 2021 were made aware that the Armed Forces Covenant had a 'start up' for people interested in setting up an armed forces organisations. But having spoken to people we agreed we already have plenty of groups in this area.

Lt col Nigel Spencer is behind a special event being planned in March for next autumn. (47425201)
Lt col Nigel Spencer is behind a special event being planned in March for next autumn. (47425201)

"So instead we proposed an Armed Forces Fair, the idea of which is to get all the groups to work together more, share opportunities, and also bring in support organisations like Help for Heroes. Our bid was successful and we were given £1,500 to deliver the fair.

"The idea is not to raise money but to put it on at no extra cost, and to bring everyone together on September 4 2022 and create a more joined up way of everybody working together.

"It is already proving surprisingly popular with groups from Wisbech, Chatteris, Whittlesey and the villages all expressing an interest in coming along and having a stall - so rather than being the March Armed Forces Fair it is turning into one for the whole of Fenland.

"On top of that other towns are copying the idea and organising their own fairs, so we are leading the way.

"The hope is to have lots of stalls selling merchandise, static displays, drill displays as well as the stalls from the various organisations. Mark and I are currently sorting out the necessary paperwork including getting permission to use the park - although I have been told unofficially it shouldn't be a problem."

As well as organisations like the various branches of the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, and other service charities such as Scotty's Little Soldiers, there will also be stalls highlighting social groups like the local Veterans' Breakfast Clubs, the Royal Air Force Association and the Fenland Tigers(Ex Royal Anglian Regiment).

It is also hoped to have representatives from the local cadet forces to offer young people a chance to find out more about what they offer.

Recruiting teams from the different branches of the armed services will also be in attendance to talk to those interested in joining about the various careers they each offer.

Spence concluded: "This is likely to be a one-off event aimed specifically at getting all the various groups working in a more joined up way in the future. Many groups are struggling, but by working together we can hopefully address that."

To find out more visit the March Armed Forces Fair Facebook page.

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