Halton march for freedom of Alylesbury Vale
Much to the delight of the many onlookers, RAF Halton, dressed in its best, paraded through the streets of Wendover with bayonets fixed, swords drawn and the Queens Colour flying to the sound of the Central Band of the RAF to exercise its right to the Freedom of Entry to AVDC.
Awarded to RAF Halton by Aylesbury Vale District Council in October 2010 a Freedom of Entry is the highest tribute that can be paid to any organisation or service. Freedom privileges date back to medieval times when fortress walls afforded protection to cities and towns from incursions of outlaw bands and attacks launched by feudal lords. The citizens wisely refused to allow the entry of bodies of armed men unless they were completely sure that those who carried arms would not use them against the townsfolk. Hence the granting of permission for a formed body of armed men to enter a city, a ‘Freedom of Entry’, became a mark of trust and confidence in which that armed body was held by its citizens.
Around 100 personnel from RAF Halton turned out to mark the special occasion and the many residents of Wendover who were showing their support were thrilled with a flypast by a Chinook helicopter of 18 Squadron based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire.
Group Captain Simon Harper, Station Commander of RAF Halton said: “Today allows us to reaffirm our close partnership with AVDC and the local community. To do so in Wendover makes the event all the more special. This year we celebrate 100 years of flying at Halton, which means that the population of Wendover have lived and worked as neighbours to a military presence for an incredible length of time, and this support has been both exceptional and invaluable.”
Councillor Dereck Isham inspected the airmen on behalf of AVDC. He said: “As a District and on behalf of the Town I know that we are all proud to have RAF Halton as a part of our community. Having alongside us an organisation which provides training and skills to service men and women, enabling them to contribute to the UK’s Defence Strategy both at home and abroad, is a privilege and honour. Today I hope this Parade will be a powerful, visible demonstration of the strong support and connection between the town of Wendover, the Armed Forces, the Royal Air Force and especially RAF Halton.”
Given that Freedom awards allow troops to bear arms in the a town the parade today gave the local community an opportunity to celebrate the wealth of operational and service experience that was evident from the number of medals displayed on the chests of the airmen and women on parade. Whilst Halton is predominantly a training establishment, personnel contribute to the wider defence task in a variety of tasks, deploying to operational theatres as a matter of course.
Flight Lieutenant Steve Sharp bore the Queen’s Colour for RAF Halton during the parade. He said: “The honour and privilege of bearing the Queens Colour for RAF Halton is one that very few people get to enjoy. A parade with the Queens Colour isn’t a regular occurrence so to be able to share that with the local community simply enhances the cohesion between us. I felt particularly proud to be the Colour Bearer and was equally proud of those in the Colour Escort Party and all those on the parade.”