Armed Forces Day 2023 events revealed

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The uMhlathuze local municipality, in the form of its maritime component Richards Bay, will next month be the first city host in the second provincial round of Armed Forces Day (AFD) commemorations and events in South Africa.

Adjacent Empangeni is the other part of uMhlathuze and together the pair form the third largest local authority in KwaZulu-Natal behind the capital Pietermaritzburg, governed by Msunduzi local municipality, and port city Durban, falling under eThekwini municipality.

Armed Forces Day (AFD) has grown from a single day to mark the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi in the English Channel on 21 February 1917, with the loss of more than 600 mostly SA Native Labour Corps (SANLC) servicemen, to a week-long event.

SA National Defence Force (SANDF) exhibitions and events in support of AFD 2023 start on 15 February when a fan park opens at the uMhlathuze central sports complex in Richards Bay Central. To be featured, according to SANDF social media, are “military careers and hardware”. It will be open until 19 February.

Naval ships from the Chinese, Russian and South African navies will be alongside in the Richard Bay small craft harbour ahead of Exercise Mosi II and, according to the SANDF, will be open to the public between 09h00 and 15h00 from 16 to 19 February. The vessels are the Valour Class frigate SAS Mendi (F148), the hydrographic survey vessel SAS Protea (A324), multi-mission inshore patrol vessel (MMIPV) SAS King Sekhukhune I (P1571) and inshore patrol craft SAS Tekwane (P1554).

From the northern KZN port the vessels will depart for the at sea component of the second Exercise Mosi, with serials ranging from officer of the watch (OOTW) through to search and rescue, VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure) and casevacs the order of the day.

The SA Navy (SAN) along with sister services the SA Air Force (SAAF), SA Army and SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) will show what training has given them in military skills during a capability demonstration on Naval Island set down for Friday, 17 February.

The visual highlight of the entire event is set to happen two days later on Sunday, 19 February. That’s when a night shoot is scheduled for the popular Alkantstrand beach.

Armed Forces Day itself will be marked with a mass parade on Bullion Boulevard starting at 10:00 on Tuesday, 21 February.