I COMMEND Ian Tomes (Journal, April 18) for his bravery in questioning whether it is right to oust the Market stallholders on June 27 in favour of ‘Armed Forces Day’. Anyone daring to put their head above the parapet and suggest that this is an intrusion into the rights of stallholders (and their customers) might expect to get a torrent of vitriol, laced with suggestions that he is unpatriotic. So it’s interesting and perhaps reassuring that this week’s Journal contains not a single letter objecting to his viewpoint. Maybe the citizens of Salisbury and district are smart enough to see this three-day event for what it is.

We already have Remembrance Day in November when we recognise and remember the sacrifice made by our fighting forces, a day that has its roots way back in1919. Armed Forces Day started as a relatively low-key event called Veterans Day in 2006, then somehow morphed into Armed Forces Day in 2009 and now this three-day jamboree.

Could this rebranding exercise just possibly be motivated by falling recruitment rates? As of February this year our armed forces were short of more than 9,000 trained personnel, and the number of people leaving the forces continues to exceed those joining. All this despite vigorous advertising on TV and other media, plus of course an increasing military involvement in our education establishments.

What better way then than to stage an annual event where the forces can put on a display. Not in November when it is cold and wet, and death and sacrifice are at the forefront of peoples’ minds, but in summer when people are more in the mood for marching and displays of military hardware. Oh, and when we are also approaching the end of the academic year, and young men and women are looking for a career.

All of which brings me to another point: the UK is the only European country that enlists at age 16. In fact 26 per cent of the army intake were minors in 2018. And after the first six months, they become legally required to stay until age 22. Which means that a decision made at 15 years and seven months (the youngest age for an application) can see you shipped out to frontline combat two-and-a-half years later.

We are one of only 20 countries worldwide to recruit at 16. The others include regimes like North Korea. Is that the sort of company that we really wish to keep?

Getting back to our market stall holders, June 27 would be one of their prime trading days, with warmer weather, and tourism getting into full swing. So it’s not reasonable that they should be penalised like this. Ringwood is currently trying to resuscitate its moribund street market. Salisbury is not immune from a similar fate.

Alan Jones