Gallery: Crowds applaud Colchester soldiers

THOUSANDS of people braved appalling weather today to show their support for Colchester based soldiers.

Roddy Ashworth

THOUSANDS of people braved appalling weather today to show their support for Colchester based soldiers.

More than 700 troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade marched through the town centre as crowds clapped and cheered them on.

With bayonets fixed, colours flying and bands playing, the parade moved along the High Street, saluted the town hall, and then turned onto North Hill.

Representatives of all of 16 Air Assault Brigade's units marched in the procession, including the Band of the Parachute Regiment and Pegasus, the Paras' Shetland pony mascot.

At 11.30am the bells of St Peter's rang out as a mark of respect to the soliders, who served in Afghanistan last year, and an Apache and a Lynx helicopter flew overhead.

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The 8,000-troop strong 16 Air assault Brigade, which was formed in 1999 and is based at Colchester Garrison, was celebrating its Freedom of the Borough, which was granted in February last year.

The brigade serves as the British Army's rapid reaction fighting force, and has to be ready to deploy anywhere in the world at five days' notice.

Brigade Commander, Brigadier James Chiswell MC, said: “Since its formation in 1999, 16 Air Assault Brigade has had the privilege of calling Colchester its home.

“Throughout the brigade's time in Colchester, the borough's and the public's support for the soldiers of 16 Air Assault Brigade has been exceptional and we are very grateful for it.

“We are greatly honoured to be granted the Freedom of the Borough of Colchester on the Brigade's 10th Anniversary.

“This is a sign of the support the soldiers of the Brigade and their families receive from the local community and we look forward to maintaining these extremely close relations with the town into the future.”