Great day feeding the 500!

Serving members and veterans of the armed forces enjoyed a free carvery at Coral Island in Blackpool as part of Armed Forces Week.'Bombardier Aaron Edwards and Gunner Lewis Hudson chat to L-R: John Hepburn, William Hunter, Doreen Wyllie and Jean Hepburn.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'27-6-2013

Serving members and veterans of the armed forces enjoyed a free carvery at Coral Island in Blackpool as part of Armed Forces Week.'Bombardier Aaron Edwards and Gunner Lewis Hudson chat to L-R: John Hepburn, William Hunter, Doreen Wyllie and Jean Hepburn. PIC BY ROB LOCK'27-6-2013

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Free carvery dinners were lapped up in their hundreds by both veterans and serving soldiers celebrating Armed Forces Week.

The offer was put on yesterday by the Coral Island entertainment complex on the Promenade in Blackpool.

Around 500 past and present forces personnel attended the event, which is now in its seventh year.

Sgt Chris Bracegirdle, from the Blackpool Armed Forces Week Steering Committee, helped to organise the dinner.

He said: “They come down in their droves and they’re quite thankful for it.

“It’s one of the few things in Blackpool that’s actually free any more.

“What Coral Island has done for the armed forces over the years has been brilliant, they’re one of the best businesses in town for supporting us.”

Among those enjoying their free roast were John and Jean Hepburn, from Paisley, in Scotland, who have attended Armed Forces Week in Blackpool for the past five years.

Mr Hepburn, 57, said: “It’s absolutely brilliant what they do for us here.

“This week in Blackpool is fantastic and always has been, they’ve really looked after us.”

Gary Fox, bar manager at Coral Island, oversaw the operation which involved three separate sittings yesterday afternoon.

He said: “In our first year we started off with one sitting of 120 people and every year since it’s got busier and busier.

“Now we’re feeding around 500 and all the staff love doing it.

“It’s the one area they genuinely enjoy working, it’s all quite humbling for us.

“It’s always a great day, it’s our privilege to serve them and it’s our way to pay our respects.”

An armed forces career information day was also held yesterday at Blackpool Town Hall.

People were given the chance to meet representatives from the Army, Navy, and RAF about life in the services at the event, which was organised by careers advice service Connexions.

At 11am today a service of dedication took place at Fylde Memorial Arboretum, at Moor Park Avenue, Bispham, where a plaque was unveiled in memory of Fusilier Sam Flint-Broughton, 21, from Poulton, who died in Afghanistan earlier this year.

For comments from Fusilier Flint-Broughton’s family, see tomorrow’s Gazette.

Tonight will also see the Armed Forces Week gala dinner held at the Norbreck Castle Hotel.

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