Events

Jollof, English tea and cultural dress make the mix at Commonwealth Day event

International food, drink and fashion demonstrated the diversity of defence personnel from 12 and 16 Regiments The Royal Artillery.

The important contribution Commonwealth personnel make to the Armed Forces has been recognised during an event.

The international buffet and cultural displays at Baker Barracks in Thorney Island, West Sussex, took place as part of events to mark Commonwealth Day.

Ten nations from the Commonwealth showed off their cultural dress and traditions and the cuisines on offer ranged from Ghanaian jollof (fried rice) to English Yorkshire tea.

Staff Sergeant Collins Gyamfi, of 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, organised the event and highlighted its importance for his regiment.

He said: "Thorney Island station has very diverse members from all over the world, and I felt like Commonwealth Day is a unique opportunity to celebrate all the differences that we bring together to make us a brilliant force."

SSgt Gyamfi wore traditional Ghanian Kente Cloth – worn for high-end occasions such as funerals and weddings and by royalty – to show part of his culture.

Similarly, Gunner Natokalau of 12 Regiment Royal Artillery wore a traditional wedding dress representing Fiji.

He described the occasion as "the best thing that has happened in Baker Barracks to learn more cultures about different types of people and their families".

Commonwealh Day Celebration at Baker Barracks, Thorney Island -Gunner Natokalau of 12 Regiment Royal Artillery wore a traditional wedding dress representing Fiji 14032022 CREDIT BFBS
Gunner Natokalau of 12 Regiment Royal Artillery wore a traditional wedding dress representing Fiji.

For Lance Bombadier Mbye the occasion brought back fun memories from his early school years in The Gambia.

"Our parents will cook for us all our different dishes, and we will take it to school and share with our friends and teachers," he said.

"We'll all join together and celebrate Commonwealth and start singing God Save the Queen," he added while smiling and adjusting his white kaftan – a traditional Gambian attire worn on special occasions.

Major John Axcell, Commanding Officer 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, said the event was a success and "absolutely vital that we get to understand each other better and develop our teams".

Commonwealh Day Celebration at Baker Barracks, Thorney Island - LBdr Mbye wearing Traditional Gambian clothes to Mark Commonwealth Day14032022 CREDIT BFBSCommonwealh Day Celebration at Baker Barracks, Thorney Island - LBdr Mbye wearing Traditional Gambian clothes to Mark 14032022 CREDIT BFBS
Lance Bombardier Mbye in traditional Gambian attire worn on special occasions.

Commenting on this year's Commonwealth theme on delivering on a common future, Major Axcell said: "It's about innovation, connecting and transforming.

"And for 7th Air Defence Group in the ground base air defence environment, 12 Regiment and 16 Regiment, that is exactly what we're doing at the minute."

Commonwealth Day is observed on the second Monday in March each year by people all over the Commonwealth – in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific.

Commonwealh Day Celebration at Baker Barracks, Thorney Island -Jollof rice dish on offered to 14032022 CREDIT BFBS .JPG
Jollof, a traditional West African fried rice dish, was served at the event.

With the Queen at its head, the Commonwealth brings together 54 independent countries and is home to 2.5 billion citizens.

A service was held at Westminster Abbey on Monday, and there was a schedule of virtual events to promote the strong unity, diversity and shared values of the Commonwealth family under the theme 'delivering a common future'.

This year also marks the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and her 70 years of service to the people of the Commonwealth.

Commonwealh Day Celebration at Baker Barracks, Thorney Island - SSgt Collins explaining his culture and the importance of the dress he's wearing to fellow soldier 14032022 CREDIT BFBS
Staff Sergeant Gyamfi of 16 Regiment Royal Artillery explaining his culture and the importance of the dress he's wearing to a fellow soldier.

Service personnel from nations that now form part of the Commonwealth contributed to the British war effort during the First and Second World Wars and, in 1961, a campaign was launched to encourage recruitment from Commonwealth nations such as Fiji, coinciding with the end of National Service in the UK.

The British Armed Forces' most recent policy of recruitment of Commonwealth citizens began in 1998 due to a shortfall in British recruiting.

This has supported the British Armed Forces by bolstering the numbers of service personnel, contributing to global campaigns and bringing specialist skills to the services.