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RAF Honington gets ready for Freedom of Thetford parade

PUBLISHED: 07:30 07 June 2019

WO Mac MacDonald barks an instruction Picture: RAF HONINGTON

WO Mac MacDonald barks an instruction Picture: RAF HONINGTON

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Spit and polish is the order of the day as RAF Honington prepares to receive the Freedom of Thetford this weekend.

Rifle drill rehearsals get underway Picture: MARK LANGFORDRifle drill rehearsals get underway Picture: MARK LANGFORD

More than 100 servicemen and women have been intensively rehearsing for the march through the town led by the band of the RAF Regiment on Sunday June 9.

The title Deed of Freedom will then be presented to the Station Commander,

Group Captain Matt Radnall, by the Mayor of Thetford Councillor Brenda Canham.

Grp Capt Radnall said: "We are delighted and immensely grateful that Thetford has seen fit to honour the serving community at RAF Honington with the Freedom of the Town.

SAC Gareth Gallivan, from Watton Picture: MARK LANGFORDSAC Gareth Gallivan, from Watton Picture: MARK LANGFORD

"While many Station personnel have participated in some form of Freedom parade at some stage in their career, it is very rare to exercise such a privilege for the very first time in any town.

"It is made all the more significant as the Station enjoys such close ties with Thetford, which has become home for many of our former and currently serving members that have chosen to settle there."

The Mayor said: "It is an honour and a pleasure for me to be the Mayor that presents the Freedom to RAF Honington, and I'm sure it will be a wonderful event for the town."

The Freedom of the Town is an ancient sign of trust given by a town to nearby military organisations allowing them to march through with drums beating, flags flying and bayonets fixed.

AC Robin Day, from Felixstowe Picture: MARK LANGFORDAC Robin Day, from Felixstowe Picture: MARK LANGFORD

The parade will be led by Squadron Leader David Ford, officer commanding 15 Squadron RAF Regiment.

He said it would be a proud day for him: "It's a huge honour personally to be asked to be the parade commander for the Freedom of Thetford parade, and it's a huge honour equally for RAF Honington to have the Freedom of Thetford bestowed upon it.

"We hope that we will be able to put on a good show and a spectacular for the people of Thetford on the day."

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Among those parading will be Senior Aircraftsman (SAC) Gareth Gallivan, from Watton, and Aircraftsman (AC) Robin Day from Felixstowe.

SAC Gallivan, who comes from an RAF family, said: "It's going to be a proud moment for me personally.

"This doesn't happen very often so to do one in one of my local towns is fantastic. I'm very happy to be taking part."

AC Day said: "It's all going really well, we're working hard in rehearsals and it's all coming together.

Drill instructors Corporal James Killa, left, and Sergeant Andy Sweeney oversee rehearsals Picture: MARK LANGFORDDrill instructors Corporal James Killa, left, and Sergeant Andy Sweeney oversee rehearsals Picture: MARK LANGFORD

"It feels great to be part of the parade, it's putting us in the public eye and I'm really looking forward to it."

Warrant Officer Mac MacDonald is Station Warrant Officer for RAF Honington, with responsibility for discipline and ceremonial duties, and has organised the parade with the civil authorities.

He said preparations had been underway for some time but the centenary celebrations of the RAF last year meant the Freedom parade could not take place until now.

"The planning started way back in 2017 and it's only been accepted this year after our busy RAF 100," he said.

WO Mac MacDonald, Station Warrant Officer at RAF Honington Picture: MARK LANGFORDWO Mac MacDonald, Station Warrant Officer at RAF Honington Picture: MARK LANGFORD

RAF Honington opened in 1937 and during the Second World War was home to the United States 8th Army Air Force and the Advanced Air Depot.

Today, RAF Honington is the home of RAF Force Protection, who are responsible for protecting the RAF at home and abroad and more than 1,500 service personnel, civil servants and contractors work there.

RAF Honington hosts professional training for the RAF Regiment, and further training for the wider RAF, specialising in protection of personnel and assets.

It is home to two frontline RAF Regiment field squadrons and several operational and specialist units, including a specialist RAF Police Wing.

Personnel at RAF Honington rehears for the Freedom of Thetford parade Picture: RAF HONINGTONPersonnel at RAF Honington rehears for the Freedom of Thetford parade Picture: RAF HONINGTON

The parade starts at 11.50am from the Grammar School in Bridge Street, marching along King Street and forming up in the Market Square at 12.10 for the formal Freedom ceremony.

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