THE future of one of Trowbridge’s major public events is now very much in doubt.

The Wiltshire Armed Forces and Veterans Celebrations may have taken place for the last time in 2019 after the organising committee voted last night to dissolve.

Their unanimous decision means there will be no two-day event next year unless another organisation or volunteers step forward to take it on.

Maryrose Mantle, the WAFVC’s organiser for the past 16 years, said: “It' a very sad day. I am very disappointed that it is being wound up but it is understandable.

“Community groups are being led by the older section of the community. We don’t seem to get any volunteers coming through from the lower age groups. It’s because they have so many other opportunities these days.

“Nobody stepped forward to take on the posts or to organise. There is now no committee.”

Mrs Mantle, the WAFVC chairman until last night, had announced last year that 2020 would be her last year as she wanted to spend more time with her family.

Last year’s event in Trowbridge – held in competition with the UK national armed forces celebration event in Salisbury – attracted 20,000 visitors, its highest-ever attendance.

Mrs Mantle said: “People wanted to come to Trowbridge because of its reputation. It would have been lovely if it had been the only event in Wiltshire but people still came and we put on a good show. There was no bad feeling.”

This year’s event, which was due to take place on June 27 and 28, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown restrictions on mass public gatherings.

“We were not the only event to be cancelled this year because of the Covid pandemic. Hopefully, it will give impetus for someone to hold a different type of event in the future.”

Mrs Mantle said that many veterans from recent post-World War 2 conflicts had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorders and being involved with military events brought back bad memories.

“The celebrations were started as a veterans day by the Ministry of Defence but now many of the people who fought in World War 1 have gone.

“There have been other conflicts since World War 2 but many of the veterans are too close to the event. They find it hard sometimes because it brings back bad memories.”

The future of the armed forces celebration was decided at a WAFVC annual general meeting on Thursday evening.

It was attended by representatives of the Trowbridge branches of the White Ensign Association, the Royal Air Force Association and the Royal British Legion.

Town councillors on Tuesday called for volunteers to step forward and help organise the armed forces celebrations for next year.

Next year's event will now not take place unless volunteers can be found to help organise and run it.

They are being offered a £7,000 grant from Trowbridge Town Council towards the £20,000 cost of running a two-day event.

On Tuesday, Cllr Geoff Whiffen, urged Trowbridge Town Council's policy and resources committee to support the event and called for volunteers.

He said: "This event, which has been supported by Trowbridge Town Council every year is, in my opinion, the primary show in the town.

“Given that members of the extremely hard-working committee have decided unanimously to resign, it is now up to the council whether to try and maintain and enhance it."

The celebrations feature activities in Trowbridge Town Park on the Saturday including reenactment groups and military displays.

On Sunday, there is a service at the Town Park bandstand and a traditional armed forces parade through the town centre, finishing at the town hall.

Mrs Mantle said the WAFVC committee’s decision could provide an opportunity for Trowbridge to stage a different type of event.

“We have had great contractors. They have been fantastic. It has been like a family.

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported the event over the years.

“But it is an opportunity for a different type of event in Trowbridge, something more energetic and innovative. That could be a one-day event or a parade.”