Troops parade through city for Armed Forces Day

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Thousands of people were lining the streets today as part of a national celebration of Britain's servicemen and women.

Troops paraded through the centre of Cardiff in one of more than 350 events to mark the second annual Armed Forces Day.

The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the head of the Armed Forces Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup and Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox were attending the national event in the Welsh capital.

Other major celebrations are being held in Edinburgh, where guests include the head of the Army, General Sir David Richards, and Manchester, which welcomes the head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope.

There are also a host of smaller functions in towns and villages nationwide, ranging from parades and military displays to a mass skydive in fancy dress and a "patriotic knitting" exhibition.

Today's events will be particularly poignant for the families of the 10,000 British troops currently serving in Afghanistan.

A total of 307 UK servicemen and women have died and many more have been wounded since operations in the country began in October 2001.

It follows the death of 18 UK soldiers and Royal Marines in the past month, including nine in seven days.

The Royal Family was represented by Charles and Camilla in Cardiff, but the Queen sent a message of support.

She said: "I warmly welcome all who are taking part in Armed Forces Day this year, celebrating servicemen and women past and present, and the cadet forces.

"The men and women of our Armed Forces have always been admirable examples of professionalism and courage. Then as now, they perform their duties in often the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances, both at home and overseas."

Special Armed Forces Day flags have been hoisted above Government and council buildings throughout the UK, including No 10 Downing Street.

Among the more unusual events to mark the occasion is an exhibition in Hereford of knitted items in "patriotic colours", including a 13ft wide Union Flag, in memory of Rifleman Will Aldridge, 18, who was killed in Afghanistan last year.

Armed Forces Day, which incorporates the annual Veterans Day introduced in 2006, was created last year following criticism that Britain did not do enough to recognise the bravery and sacrifice of its service personnel.