Thousands line the streets in Bury St Edmunds to see the RAF 100th anniversary Freedom Parade
- Credit: Archant
Thousands of people lined the route to welcome more than 250 servicemen and women from RAF Honington along with local cadets and veterans in a parade through Bury St Edmunds today.
The streets were packed with onlookers as they marked the 100th anniversary of the RAF by walking in a Freedom Parade which began from the gates of the Abbey Gardens.
Led by the band from the Suffolk base it made its way up Abbeygate Street, then through the Cornhill, Buttermarket, along Woolhall Street, St Andrews Street South and finished outside The Apex, in the Arc Shopping Centre.
Prior to the march the day started with a service at St Edmundsbury Cathedral where a large commemorative candle, carried by Leading Aircraftsman James Peach, from Downham Market, was lit.
Invited guests and dignitaries then attended a reception at The Apex while people were able to enjoy military static displays in Charter Square, a Hurricane flypast and music from the band.
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It was a poignant event for those taking part as RAF Honington station commander Group Captain David Tate remarked.
He said: “There are huge significant things about today. Firstly we are excersing our right to the freedom of Bury St Edmunds which is a huge accolade and the freedom was granted to RAF Honington back in 1972 and that means we have the right to march through the town with swords drawn, bayonettes fixed and drums beating and it’s a huge privilege to be able to do that, something we don’t take for granted and we are massively grateful to the town for that.
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“And secondly we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force which was formed 100 years ago this month. So to be able to do both of those things together is absolutely fantastic.”
He said the anniversary is also celebrating by promoting science, technology, engineering and maths and supporting schools to build their own rocket propelled cars, a baton relay which is going round the country, a parade down The Mall on July 10 and the voluntary band from RAF Honington performing on Horse Guards Parade.
“But today is our way of saying thank you to the local community who have been supporting us so fantastically over the past 81 years. We are so grateful to the local community here and to exercise the freedom of the town which we do not take for granted.
“Our servicemen and women are proud to take part and it’s the men and women who have made the organisation so successful over the last 100 years; everybody from the founders through to those who fought in the Battle of Britain and nowadays the wonderful men and women who are serving here at RAF Honington and we are as busy as we have ever been on operations around the world and in the UK. We have got guys deployed in Salisbury at the moment helping with the incident.”
And Leading Aircraftsman Peach, who graduated earlier this week as the top recruit, added that the candle will be lit every day throughout 2018 in the cathedral to mark the anniversary and said: “It was a real honour to carry it and was very special.”