The Armed Forces Community Conference

University of Exeter Penryn Campus

Thursday 22 June 2023

University of Exeter Penryn Campus
Thursday 22 June 2023

As a curtain-raiser to Cornwall hosting the Armed Forces Day National Event 2023, a special conference to provide a national and local perspective on how different organisations are supporting this community, and to explore opportunities to create a legacy beyond this event.

This is a one-day conference to be held on 22 June at the University of Exeter, Penryn campus. It will precede the military displays and pageantry celebrating this year’s Armed Forces Day, comprising nearly 30 separate events over three days from Friday 23 June to Sunday 25 June, mostly free and family-friendly.

It also falls in a week when there will be official raising of the Armed Forces flag across the whole country (19 June – in Cornwall at Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth) and celebrations of Reserves Day (21 June in Cornwall at Truro Barracks).

When travelling to the conference please be mindful of sustainability and car share or use public transport if possible.


Armed Forces Day National Event will be the most impressive programme of military pageantry and displays ever held in Cornwall, with 100,000 expected visitors and an estimated economic boost to the local economy of between £5.5 and £7 million.

In a competitive national process, Cornwall’s bid to stage this showcase was accepted last year. Since then Cornwall Council, Falmouth Town Council, Falmouth Business Improvement District, the Armed Services and the Ministry of Defence have been planning a memorable tribute to the Armed Forces and their vital role in the life of this country.

Historic Falmouth will be the centrepiece for a spectacular military village and days of ceremony, which will see a parade featuring all the forces, live music, air displays and flypasts, military showmanship, fireworks, sports events, a proms style concert at Pendennis Castle, and much more.

Full details of Armed Forces Day events and arrangements are elsewhere on this website.


Louis Gardner, Cornwall Council’s Armed Forces and Veterans Champion and Cabinet Member for the Economy, himself a Veteran Royal Navy Submariner, will make the opening address to delegates.

Louis says, “Alongside the planned up-beat events applauding our forces personnel, veterans and cadets, it is important we should also pause to reflect on the many serious issues they face in service of their country.”

“Our conference will convene experts who bring experience and wisdom on subjects such as health and welfare, coping with life after injury and trauma, basics such as accommodation and childcare, and the often unseen hardships of a military life.”

“We have been fortunate to draw speakers with real insight, so are expecting some lively discussions.”

Cornwall and the Armed Forces

Cornwall, at the gateway to the world’s busiest shipping lane and one of the world’s main trading routes, has been of military strategic importance throughout history and pre-history. From its Iron Age hillforts to Cold War control centres, it has always been vital to the nation’s defence, home to military invention and innovation.

A target for Napoleon and the Spanish Armada, it was a Royalist stronghold in the English Civil War, a location for Henry Vlll’s imposing Tudor fortresses, and it pioneered the world’s postal services from Falmouth harbour by linking the British Empire with fleets of Packet ships.

Cornwall is also the birthplace of Marconi’s wireless telegraphy, and later undersea cable communications from Porthcurno that were such a potential enemy target they were protected in wartime with bunkers and flamethrowers. Supersonic military aircraft were tested on the Lizard by bouncing bomb inventor Barnes Wallis, squadrons of Spitfires were based here to protect Allied shipping from Luftwaffe attack, and the US Infantry’s D Day assault on Omaha beach was launched from a hidden Cornish beach. In modern times Cornwall has boasted the world’s largest satellite earth station, one of Europe’s largest helicopter bases HMS Seahawk at Culdrose, and one of the UK’s widest and longest airport runways at St Mawgan. The Cornish peninsula remains the first European landfall of all transatlantic internet and military communications, so locations remain secret.

It is estimated that one in five residents of Cornwall is either related to, or a member of, the armed forces – among the highest proportions in the UK. And with so many current and former military bases here the MoD remains one of Cornwall’s largest landowners.

The conference arrangements

Delegate attendance is by invitation only. The Armed Forces Community Conference will air topics such as health and mental wellbeing, housing, family welfare, and learnings from a range of guest speakers. More information from 

Those working to support the armed forces community will be invited. The conference will also be broadcast live online at this link*152faad*_ga*MTkzMjUzMDA2My4xNjQ5Njc0NDA2*_ga_PXBBF7HVWQ*MTY4NjgyNzA5My45NC4xLjE2ODY4Mjc1NjkuMC4wLjA

so anyone with an interest can join the audience. The conference will also be available on

We would like everyone to complete the pledge card and survey to help inform how to best support the armed forces. The linked survey is for Military charity and Health practitioners and is conducted on behalf of Minister Defence Personnel Veterans and Service Families (or Minister DPV&SF).

Please use this secure link: or the QR code below.

Among those addressing the conference

  • Retired Colonel David Richmond CBE – the most senior officer injured in combat in Afghanistan, who went on to become Director of Recovery at Help for Heroes, and is now the Independent Veterans Advisor to UK Government Ministers at the Cabinet Office
  • Arren Hymas, formerly of the US Navy, now with the MoD mentoring military personnel on transitioning from service to civilian life
  • Richard Smith Chief Operating Officer of the Invictus Games
  • Josh Boggi Invictus Community Liason Executive

The conference is being held in the Daphne Du Maurier Building on the University of Exeter’s Penryn campus. 

There will be an adjacent room with display stands, and a series of break-out sessions and panel discussions on key subjects including Health and Wellbeing, Building Life in the Community and Protected Characteristics within the armed forces community.


We would like to thank the Royal British Legion for their help and support in the planning and delivery of the 2023 Armed Forces Community Conference. Our thanks also go to Cornwall Council and the conference team for the organisation of the event and the conference working group who have helped design and deliver the programme. Also, thank you to the University of Exeter and FX Plus, Penryn Campus for their help and support with organising the venue. Finally, we would like to thank all of our speakers and volunteers. Without their help, this conference would not have been possible.