Veterans of all ages have enjoyed a chance to touch base with old friends at a royal garden party.
More than 2,000 guests attended Thursday’s annual garden party for forces charity The Not Forgotten Association, which was the first one to be held since the pandemic lockdowns.
It took place as the royal garden party season got under way this week without the familiar figure of the Queen, who has mobility issues, in attendance.
Veterans from all services, whose ages ranged from 102 to people in their 20s, were joined by celebrity supporters including Strictly Come Dancing star Anton Du Beke, and presenters Jeremy Vine and Vanessa Feltz.
Rosie Thompson, of the Not Forgotten Association, said: “The thing about Not Forgotten is that it brings people of all ages together and all services. It is amazing the bond that they have.
“They have all shared the same experiences, so to get them together and to hear each other’s stories and what they have all been through is really special to them.
“I think a lot of them leave this garden feeling that their services have been valued. Many have been isolated and lonely, especially in the last two years.
“To suddenly be given an invitation to come to Buckingham Palace and to meet our patron just makes them feel really special.
“Everyone is very smart and proud to be wearing their medals and their berets. It really means a great deal to them and it really means a great deal to us to be able to entertain them here in this way. It is lovely.”
TV presenter Gloria Hunniford said: “I used to think it was only veterans who came here but, in fact, I love talking to some of the young soldiers who have come back quite recently from some war or some situation.
“I find the span of ages interesting and there is lots of good conversations.”
The garden party for The Not Forgotten Association, which supports disabled veterans and serving wounded, was first held in 1921.
Tom Richardson, 59, of Loughton, Essex, who began his military career in 1973 by joining the army cadets, enjoyed the chance to meet old friends.
He said: “You always get a good feeling.
“You see people you have only seen once or twice and then you see people that you actually know. I have met quite a few people and you get a chance to bond again.”
He joined the Parachute Regiment in 1979, was posted to 2 Para and was a full corporal when he left in 1988, with tours which included the Falklands, Belize and Northern Ireland.
The Queen has missed a number of major events this year but has been carrying out virtual engagements and her other duties.
Garden parties are being staged from this week for the first time in three years and are important events in the royal calendar as those who have served their country or communities are invited to the monarch’s home.
It is understood the key factor in other members of the royal family being asked to represent the Queen was the length of time royal hosts spend standing during garden parties which last well over an hour.