Town's bestows honour on military base

MILITARY personnel from Suffolk are to be awarded a town's "Bond of Friendship" – an ancient ceremonial honour showing the great affection between the community and their local airbase.

By John Howard

MILITARY personnel from Suffolk are to be awarded a town's "Bond of Friendship" - an ancient ceremonial honour showing the great affection between the community and their local airbase.

Soldiers and airmen from Wattisham Airfield will be awarded the prestigious honour from Needham Market during a ceremony in the town on Wednesday.

It is an ancient ceremonial honour, equivalent to a Freedom of Entry, allowing recipients to "march through the town on ceremonial occasions with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, band playing and colours flying."


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To mark the occasion, Army Air Corps soldiers from all the Army regiments based at Wattisham, as well as members of the Royal Air Force, will parade through the town accompanied by a marching band.

A certificate, granting the friendship, will be presented to the station commander by the mayor, Ray Darnell.

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Lieutenant Colonel Jon Brittain, commanding officer of 7 Air Assault Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the parade commander, said: "Wattisham Station is honoured to receive such a prestigious accolade from the people of Needham Market.

"It represents a significant milestone in the station's history and we are proud to be associated with the community of Needham Market. We will build on this fine foundation and hope the association continues for many years to come."

Mr Darnell said: "When the Army were first moving to Wattisham more than 12 years ago, there were great concerns about the large army vehicles, which may have caused a substantial traffic increase.

"These concerns were unfounded and Wattisham found the Army to be excellent neighbours. We are delighted to have this bond of friendship and hope this good feeling between us continues for many more years.''

The special freedom parade starts at 2.30pm and will march through Needham Market starting at Barrett's Lane, off the High Street.

Following the parade there will be a civic reception for guests at the community centre, where the Red Devils, the freefall display team of the Parachute Regiment, will descend into Crowley Park.

The public are also invited to the community centre to view units' displays of Wattisham Airfield.

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