RAF Halton celebrate the Freedom of Dacorum Borough

With the Queen’s Colour flying, drums beating and bayonets fixed, personnel from RAF Halton exercised their right to the Freedom of Dacorum Borough in the town of Hemel Hempstead. Musical accompaniment was from the band of the Royal Air Force Regiment and fly past by a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The Town Mayor, Councillor Allan Lawson presided over the ceremony with other dignitaries and attended a reception after the event with the marching contingent. Councillor Lawson addressed the crowd saying how extremely proud he was to welcome members of RAF Halton to the second Freedom Parade they have exercised in the town since the Freedom was first granted in November 2009. He carried on saying: “In an uncertain world the rest of us rely on you, your bravery, your discipline and training to defend us in time of war and to help wherever in the world there may be famine, plague or pestilence as we have seen recently in Sierra Leone and Nepal. It is a particularly proud moment for me to acknowledge the Salute as you march past the Civic Centre. The Freedom of a town or borough is based in history.

The Freedom of the City is an ancient honour granted to martial organizations, allowing them the privilege to march into the city. This honour dates back to ancient Rome which regarded the pomerium, the boundary of the city, as sacred. Promagistrates and generals were forbidden from entering it, and resigned their imperium immediately upon crossing it. An exception was made for victory celebrations called Triumphs, during which the victorious general would be permitted to enter for one day only. Under the Republic, soldiers also lost their status when entering, becoming citizens: thus soldiers at their general’s triumph wore civilian dress. Weapons were also banned inside the pomerium for religious and traditional reasons.

It is believed that the first Freedom in Britain was presented in 1237.

RAF Halton’s Station Commander, Group Captain Adrian Burns, said: “It is a huge privilege and genuinely humbling to stand before you as the Station Commander of Royal Air Force Halton and recognise the unique and very special relationship between the Station and Dacorum. I am extremely grateful to you for allowing us to exercise the Freedom of Dacorum today and to parade Her Majesty The Queen’s Colour. It is the highest tribute that you can bestow on us. It was just over 70 years ago that Lord Trenchard, the founder of the Royal Air Force, observed that ‘Halton and the Halton spirit has been a pillar of strength all over the world’. That spirit and strength is embodied in those who serve today, those who march today, and those in the Dacorum community who are watching today. Thank you for your friendship and welcome into such a brilliant community. It genuinely means a great deal to each and every one of us.”

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