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Video & Gallery: 16 Air Assault Brigade granted Freedom of Colchester borough

PUBLISHED: 15:32 07 June 2011 | UPDATED: 15:49 07 June 2011

The Soldiers, eyes right for the Mayor as they past the Town Hall.

The Soldiers, eyes right for the Mayor as they past the Town Hall.

Archant

MORE than 600 soldiers have marched through Colchester town centre after they were granted the Freedom of the Borough.

The troops from the town’s 16 Air Assault Brigade marched “with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and Colours flying”.

Hundreds of people lined Colchester High Street this morning as the brigade, based at the Merville Barracks, went on parade to mark their recent return from a six-month tour of Afghanistan.

Brigadier James Chiswell MC, who commanded the brigade in Afghanistan, said: “Having the Freedom of the Borough of Colchester is something that is deeply cherished by 16 Air Assault Brigade, symbolising the strong relationship between the town and the soldiers that live in it.

“The support that Colchester has provided to troops and their families every time we have deployed on operations has been phenomenal. To know that the town is part of the team was an enormous source of strength for us during the recent tour of Afghanistan.

“I speak for all the soldiers of 16 Air Assault Brigade when I say that we are eagerly looking forward to the chance to parade through Colchester as a demonstration of the value we place on links with the town we are proud to call home.”

The parade, led by The Band of The Parachute Regiment, set off from East Hill at 11am. The route took them along High Street and past the Town Hall, where the Mayor of Colchester Helen Chuah, Lord Petre Lord Lieutenant of Essex and Brigadier Chiswell took the salute.

The march, also including The Band of The Prince of Wales’s Division, ended on North Hill.

Cllr Chuah said: “I am delighted that, once again, troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade have exercised the right to march through Colchester town centre.

“This wonderful event has offered the people of Colchester the chance to show their support and affection for our soldiers.”

16 Air Assault Brigade was granted the Freedom of Colchester in February 2008 and has exercised it once before in July 2009. The history of such parades is uncertain, but it seems to date back to feudal times when militias who had won the trust of local people were granted the right to march through a town with their weapons.

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