Historic day as Norfolk armed forces covenant is signed
The former head of the army has praised the signing of a community covenant which will strengthen the bond between Norfolk's communities and the Armed Forces which protect them.
General Lord Richard Dannatt, who retired as British Army chief of the general staff in 2009, was among the signatories of the Norfolk Armed Services Community Covenant at a ceremony at County Hall in Norwich today (Wednesday).
The covenant, led by Norfolk County Council, is a statement of mutual support between the county's civilian community and the Armed forces community, which pledges practical help to forces personnel and their families.
The agreement is part of a national scheme launched by the Ministry of Defence last year, which makes �30m available to projects that 'bring down the wire' and improve links between the military and civilians.
It also includes a Heroes Welcome scheme, which encourages businesses to promise servicemen and women a warm welcome, while the county council's cabinet has agreed to allocate �50,000 to support a string of projects over the next 12 months.
General Lord Dannatt, who signed the covenant on behalf of Armed Forces Charities, said: 'I think the community covenant is really important.
'A covenant has always existed, but it is now written into the Armed Forces Bill as an Act of Parliament.
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'It is really good to see that cascade down to the communities of Norfolk, solidifying the bond between the civilian and armed forces communities.'
The covenant was also signed by leaders of local councils in Norfolk and by representatives from the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force.
Representatives from RAF Marham, RAF Neatishead, the Royal Anglian Regiment, the Light Dragoons and HMS Dauntless were among those at the signing and before speeches were made, a moment's silence was held in the light of the news that six British soldiers are missing, feared dead in Afghanistan.
Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'What we want to do is to take the level of commitment this county has for the armed forces to a new and proper level. 'They are the first and last line of defence for this country. Without them the freedom and liberty we take for granted would not be there.'
Brigadier Harry Nickerson, on behalf of the armed forces, said of the covenant: 'It's really important to our servicemen and women because it makes them feel valued and gives them confidence that their families will be looked after when they are away on operations.'
The Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson, cut a celebratory cake and members of the Royal British Legion displayed their standards.
A full report explaining how the covenant will work, along with an action plan, will be considered at Norfolk County Council's cabinet on April 2, and a Norfolk Armed Forces Community Covenant website has been launched at www.norfolk.gov.uk/armedforces