Video & Gallery: Woodbridge honours returning 23 Engineer Regiment at parade

A SUFFOLK town yesterday honoured members of 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) after their return from a six month tour of Afghanistan.

The regiment, based at Woodbridge’s Rock Barracks, marched through the town with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and colours flying.

The parade, with music from the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers, set off from Station Road at 1pm.

Exercising the Regiment’s Freedom of the Town of Woodbridge, the march continued along Quayside and Lime Kiln Quay Road, before turning into The Thoroughfare, where the Mayor of Woodbridge Martin Sylvester and Maj-Gen John Sutherell, CB, CBE, DL took the salute.

A traditional Drumhead Service followed at Market Hill before a civic reception in the Shire Hall.

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Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Frazer Ross RE said the parade was “an amazing experience” for him and the unit.

He added: “I feel very lucky and honoured to have lead the Regiment through its home town of Woodbridge, with crowds of people cheering and applauding us on our way. The sheer volume of people who turned out was surprising to me and I really had to concentrate on marching to settle my emotions.

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“As a Regiment we are very close to Woodbridge and feel truly part of the community, which is vitally important to us and a relationship that I know is envied by other units.

“This parade has been an excellent way to finish off our deployment to Afghanistan, which was highly successful. It was our fourth tour and it was different to the others, with definable progress as the Afghan people develop their own governance and security structures.”

The Regiment deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province with 16 Air Assault Brigade from September 2010 to March 2011.

Mayor Sylvester said: “This parade has been a wonderful occasion to welcome back the Regiment from their tour of Afghanistan.

“It was great to see so many people lining the streets to show their appreciation for what our troops have achieved and a magnificent illustration of the close relationship between the Regiment and Woodbridge.”

Honourary chaplian Revd. Canon Kevan S. McCormack, of St Mary’s Church, Woodbridge, added: “The army have been very keen to have links with the town but I don’t think they expected such a strong link.

“The Regiment has a full time chaplain but I and the retired Reverend David Lowe from Felixstowe look after the soldiers and families left back here.”

23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) has exercised the Freedom of Woodbridge in June 2007 and September 2009.

A traditional Beating Retreat Ceremony is due to take place in Elmhurst Park today for invited dignitaries. The park will also be open to the public, with gates opening at 7pm and the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers striking up at 7.30pm.

The ceremony dates back to the early years of organised warfare when the beating of drums and the parading of guards heralded the closing of camp gates and the lowering of flags at the end of the day. Over the years, Beating Retreat has become a spectator event where military bands put on a musical display.

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