Communities Show their Support for Neighbouring Units
Some 100 soldiers marched through cheering crowds in Aldeburgh, Suffolk ‘with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and Colours flying’ as the Freedom of the Town was received by Wattisham based 3 Regt AAC. The granting of the freedom deepens relations between Aldeburgh and 3 Regt, with the unit’s 653 Squadron having a close affiliation with the town.
The parade, led by The Band of The Parachute Regiment, marched through the town, past the Mayor of Aldeburgh Cllr Peter Cox and Lt Gen Sir Gary Coward KBE CB who took the salute. An Apache flypast followed the presentation of Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medals and campaign medals earned from the Regt’s deployment to Afghanistan last year.
Lt Col Thomas de la Rue, CO 3 Regt AAC, said: “The parade was a great opportunity to give something back to the people of Aldeburgh in recognition of the support they have provided to the Regiment, in particular to 653 Squadron which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.”
Mayor of Aldeburgh Cllr Peter Cox said: “We are delighted to grant the Freedom of Aldeburgh to 3 Regiment Army Air Corps as a formal recognition of the strong links between the town and unit. We have enjoyed a close affiliation with 653 Squadron since the unit moved to Suffolk 20 years ago, and look forward to maintaining that relationship into the future.”
Further west, a similar honour was bestowed on RAF Benson, when Wallingford paid tribute to the station’s personnel as they exercised their freedom of the town.
Over a thousand people lined the streets of Wallingford as the men and women of RAF Benson proudly marched over the Thames and into the town centre to mark their Freedom, which was first bestowed on RAF Benson on 12th August 1957 but has only been exercised twice in the past decade.
The Central Band of the RAF led the 140 strong parade to the town centre for a formal inspection by the Mayor of Wallingford, Cllr Ros Lester.
Unlike many other units, the RAF Helicopter Force does not deploy to and return from Afghanistan en masse. Instead, it has a permanent presence in Afghanistan and cycles aircrew and support personnel through every few months. As such, there is no natural opportunity to welcome support helicopter personnel back after their operational tours of duty. The Freedom Parade, through Wallingford town centre, provided the perfect opportunity. It also highlights the close relationship between the Station and the local community.
Speaking about the support received by the people of Wallingford and the surrounding area, Group Captain Mason, Station Commander RAF Benson said: “In over 25 years of Service, I have never seen a more supportive local community. We simply couldn’t do what we do without the support that Wallingford and the surrounding area give us.”
The Mayor of Wallingford, Councillor Ros Lester, spoke about the strong bond: “We are very proud of our association with RAF Benson and the Freedom Parade is a truly great opportunity for the people of Wallingford to show their support to the men and women of RAF Benson who do so much for our country – we hope that the tradition continues for years to come.’
The parade concluded with a reception at the Wallingford recreation ground, whilst the Central Band entertained the public with a collection of inspiring music; and a static Puma helicopter was enjoyed by both children and adults.