Video and Gallery: Town salutes volunteer heroes

HUNDREDS of people turned out to honour brave soldiers at a parade to give them the freedom of the town.

Naomi Cassidy

HUNDREDS of people turned out to honour brave soldiers at a parade to give them the freedom of the town.

Despite the cold, the crowds packed the Cornhill in Ipswich to honour the 150 soldiers from the TA based in Yarmouth Road in the town.

Many of the volunteer soldiers, whose day jobs range from office workers to train drivers, have just returned from deployment in Iraq.

The soldiers were responsible for delivering supplies and guarding convoys to fellow troops based in the Forward Operating Bases in southern Iraq.

And among the crowd was the uncle of Ipswich soldier Private Aaron McClure, who was killed in action in Afghanistan last year.

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Pte McClure's uncle, Allan McClure, said he came especially to watch the parade as his nephew, who was killed in August 2007 was a cadet with the unit at one time.

The soldiers paraded through the town centre led by a marching band, from Black Horse Lane to the Cornhill yesterday. They were then presented with a Freedom of Entry to the Borough of Ipswich by the Mayor David Hale.

Crowds clapped and cheered as the soldiers from the TA unit based in Yarmouth Road, known as 202 (Ipswich) Transport Squadron 158 (Royal Anglian) Transport Regiment Royal Logistics Corps (Volunteers), marched through Westgate Street and into the Cornhill.

They were inspected by Mr Hale before he presented the Freedom scroll to the Honorary Colonel, Major General Shouesmith. They then enjoyed a civic reception at the Corn Exchange.

Lieutenant Colonel Jon Symon, commanding officer, said: “The soldiers had a busy time in Iraq. They did a thoroughly professional job and I am extremely proud of them. The granting of the Freedom of Ipswich is a great civic honour and means a great deal to the men, women and families associated with this Regiment.”

Mr Hale said: “It is our duty and our pleasure to honour these brave servicemen and women. They go to the hottest spots across the globe to support our regular army and they risk their lives for the sake of their country. Such courage should not go unrewarded.”

Maureen and Michael Drury, of Fonnereau Road, came to watch the parade.

Mrs Drury said: “We know someone in the band but we are very proud of all our troops. They need as much support as possible. We think they do a wonderful job.”

Eric Brown, of Sheldrake Drive, said: “I was in the army for 21 years. I came out especially to see this because I have always had an interest in the army.

“I think it is great that they are being honoured. I'm all for it. I'm pleased there was a marching band too.”

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Private Lisa Jones, a volunteer at the TA based in Yarmouth Road, has just returned from six months in Iraq where she was a driver, helping to transport supplies. She joined the TA three years ago and hopes to join the regular army in the near future.

Pte Jones, 31, who works as an administrator and lives in Norfolk, said: “It was brilliant in Iraq. I was excited rather than scared about going out there.

“We had some rockets fired at us a couple of times. There was a roadside bomb that was detonated too early so just missed us luckily.

“My family were nervous about me going because they did not know what to expect. It is very strange to be back. I want to go back again.”

Lance Corporal Paul Southernwood, 41, also from the 202 Squadron, said: “Iraq was hot and very hard work but it was very rewarding. You get to have a lot of experiences that a normal person wouldn't have.

“It is a proud moment to march here. It is a big thing for the town.

“I'm trying to get back into the civvie life. I'm a train driver usually.”

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