Portsmouth’s International Festival of the Sea, starting as the America’s Cup Jubilee ends, is expected to attract 250,000 visitors this year

Since the demise of the Royal Tournament, the services have decided to hold three massive festivals, each hosted by a different service. The International Festival of the Sea is the first of these, hosted naturally by the Royal Navy, with the Royal Air Force and the Army hosting in 2003 and 2004 respectively.

It’s sad to see the end of any long-held tradition but a quick look at the list of attractions, demonstrations and exhibits that make up the show suggests we got a pretty good deal. The RN as host provides most of the glitz including the Falklands’ veterans HMS Illustrious, HMS Endurance and five Type-42 destroyers, plus five of the more recent Type-23 frigates and any number of mine layers, detectors, patrol boats and training craft.

A Sea Harrier, a Merlin chopper and an ASR wing of Sea Kings will buzz the crowd and carry out manouevres over the harbour. Later, some of the older visitors will raise their heads to search the sky through moist-eyes as the Royal Naval historic flight brings history roaring to life and sends shivers down honourable spines. The Royal Marines will be playing and displaying, Sea Cadets, simulators, Shackleton exhibition? you get the picture.

International politics will hopefully have developed some stability by late August, because Britain will be in no position to wage war, half the Army will be here. Tanks, APCs, helicopters, missile batteries, demonstrations by 14 regiments, a parachute drop tower, paintball – the works.

The RAF are sending along a crack squadron of simulators, mock-ups of several types of aircraft and a few of the real thing, including an Apache gunship. Nimrods, more Harriers; the RAF Falcons will be parachuting in before the Battle of Britain memorial flight rumbles overhead, taking several generations back 60 years to their collective youth in a time of war. Finally, the Red Arrows will crown the event in their own inimitable way. Some things never change.

The event runs from 24-27 August, based in Portsmouth Royal Naval Dockyard, which is well worth a visit anyway. There’s no ticket information just yet but for families, this is a diary essential.

Click here for the event website.