‘Hostage crisis’ set to develop in Ballymena

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Ballymena Showgrounds is to be transformed into a ‘combat zone’ where spectators will watch as a dramatic hostage taking scenario sparks military intervention.

The exercise is part of the Armed Forces Day Celebrations in the Co. Antrim town on Saturday.

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment have been transforming part of the huge arena into a rural village where, at 3pm, visitors will see all elements of the armed forces in NI come together to deal with a hostage situation – including a lead attack from the 1st Battalion Irish Guards who are leaving their ceremonials aside to reveal their true soldiering skills!

Soldiers from Northern Ireland’s reservists as well as regular troops and colleagues from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force and Cadets will be taking part in a huge parade through Ballymena on Saturday morning (11am from Meetinghouse Lane).

Major George McFarland of 2 R Irish has been responsible for the choreography.

“This is going to be spectacular,” he said. “We are going all out to produce a memorable event with lots of action, noice, excitement and battle skills mixed with music and commentary that will leave no one in doubt about the huge range of skills and experience in Northern Ireland”.

Throughout the day Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and the Armed Forces are laying on a range of concerts, games and activities for all the family.

Commander John Gray RN has been the driving force behind the military organisation of the event.

“This is a major weekend when the public gets a chance not only to show its support for the Armed Forces and to get up close in an enjoyable and free day out, but also for the Armed Forces to say their thank you to the public for its ongoing support.”

The Armed Forces “weekend” concludes in Larne on Sunday when the Military Wives Choir will take part in a Service of Reflection at First Larne Presbyterian Church.