TRIBUTES were paid to serving soldiers past and present as hundreds lined the streets of Oxfordshire to celebrate Armed Forces Day.

Soldiers marched through Banbury with fixed bayonets while crowds fell quiet in Wantage town centre for a two-minute silence as residents joined millions across the country to honour the nation’s serving soldiers and the fallen.

Armed Forces Day replaces Veterans Day in a bid to include servicemen and women currently on active duty for their country.

In Wantage, about 500 people watched a parade of standard bearers joined by representatives of the Army and Royal Air Force and ex-servicemen, which culminated in a service at the town’s war memorial.

Canon John Salter led the service, while the march back through the town was led by Wantage Silver Band, ending in a salute taken by Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Boyd-Carpenter, chairman of the Berkshire Royal British Legion.

Wantage mayor Patrick O’Leary said: “It was a sombre occasion and very respectful.

“During the two minutes of silence and at the end of the service it was a stirring moment.

“In Wantage we have Remembrance Day services, Battle of Britain services and an event for Armistice, but this day was special and fits in perfectly.

“Regardless of what people’s personal thoughts on the conflict are, the soldiers need our support and this service is about giving them the respect they deserve.”

Contingents from Dennison Barracks, Hermitage, RAF Benson and local Air Training Corps cadets joined the parade.

The town was specially-chosen to host the celebration and given a flag to mark Armed Forces Daywhich is being flown at County Hall in Oxford until today.

It will then be taken down and presented to RAF veteran Stan Bradford, who received the Distinguished Flying Medal.

In Banbury, hundreds of well-wishers gave their support to veterans and the 5 Squadron Signals Regiment who were given the Freedom of the town 10 years ago.

The servicemen marched through Banbury with fixed bayonets.

The town was not one of Britain’s official Armed Forces Day hosts, but the town bought a flag and pledged to host an event regardless.

Civic officer Tricia Campbell said: “It is a really essential, positive day where we can say thank-you to all the armed forces, those still serving and people who have returned home.

“There were lots of people clapping and cheering.”