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1 Regiment Army Air Corps is Granted the Freedom of Wincanton

Thursday 2 June 2016, 14:26
By John Smith

On Thursday 26th May, 1 Regiment Army Air Corp was granted the freedom of Wincanton at a spectacular ceremony involving a military parade of soldiers. Led by a military band, they marched from Churchfields car park to the town centre for inspection and the presentation of the Freedom of the Town certificate.

Considering it was a working day the streets were still full of enthusiastic flag-waving supporters, including many students from our local schools. To cap it all, even the weather played ball and provided blue skies and sunshine.

On the morning of the event preparations started at around 7.00am. Churchfields car park was the base of operations for both the army and police contingents, and for security reasons was declared a ‘sterile area’. No one was allowed access without appropriate checks.

With the current high risk of terrorist attacks in the UK, even Wincanton had to give way to rigorous security checks in the interests of maintaining safety for all. Police officers, including at least one sniffer dog and handler, checked the parade route for any possible threats. All roadside drains on the route were routinely opened and checked.

1 Regiment Army Air Corps parading up Wincanton High Street

High Street was closed to traffic from 10:00am, allowing time for the podium and amplification system to be put in place at the junction of High Street and Carrington Way. Meanwhile, in Churchfields, the soldiers were gearing up, getting their dress uniforms on, whilst the band tuned their instruments.

In the middle of this activity a small group of children dressed in their hi-viz waistcoats watched the soldiers prepare. However it was clear that something else was grabbing their attention. Two police officers brought their horses from the police horse box. To adults these horses were huge, but if you are only three or four feet tall they must have looked like giants and so the children stared in awe at them.

At precisely 11.30am, with military precision, the sound of tuning changed to clear rhythmic marching music. The parade had begun. The two police officers on their magnificent steeds led the parade from Churchfields up High Street to the Carrington Way junction, where the parade was brought to a halt for the presentation ceremony.

Mayor Howard Ellard was given the honour of inspecting the troops, after which it was time for the speeches and presentation. First on the podium the Mayor, in full mayoral regalia, welcomed everyone to this special event. He said that on behalf of the Town Council and the residents of Wincanton, he was delighted to bestow the freedom of the town on 1 Regiment Army Air Corp.

Next on the podium Lieutenant Colonel Lucy Giles told the audience that being Wincanton born and bred she was proud to be here on this special day. She attended Wincanton Primary School and King Arthur’s School before joining the army. Lucy hit the headlines when she became the first woman in history to take control of the New College at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS).

Mayor Howard Ellard, Lieutenant Colonel Lucy Giles and Lieutenant General Gary Coward giving speeches at Carrington Way

Next Lieutenant General Sir Gary Coward, CBE, spoke of the great honour the regiment felt at being given freedom of the town, after which the official proceedings were brought to a close by the army chaplain Reverend Captain Peter Dixon leading everyone in a prayer and a blessing.

From this point the parade returned to marching formation, and led by the two mounted police officers and the military band, headed up High Street, completed a 180 degree turning manoeuvre at the entrance to the Memorial Car Park, and marched back to Churchfields for final instructions and parade dismissal.

1 Regiment Army Air Corp was originally formed at Hildesheim, Germany in 1983 with the amalgamation of three World War Two squadrons. After the war the original serving squadrons were renamed 651, 652, and 661 Squadron Army Air Corps respectively. The new amalgamated 1 Regiment Army Air Corps was equipped with Lynx and Gazelle helicopters. Since then the squadron moved via Gutersloh to the UK, with their most recent move being to their new base at Yeovilton.

This was a very special day for both the town and the regiment. The people of Wincanton showed clear enthusiasm and support, and the men and women of 1 Regiment Army Air Corps rose to the occasion. With a growing number of military families now being housed in Wincanton, they are already an established part of the local community.

The following photos were provided by John Baxter and John Smith. Click to zoom!

The following photos were provided by John Smith. Click to zoom!


Posts: 1
Great record of a great day
Reply #1 on : Thu June 02, 2016, 17:19:26
Well worth waiting for some great coverage of a great day for Wincanton. Well done to the team at Wincanton Window. Captured the spirit of the day so well.

Posts: 1
Credit to...
Reply #2 on : Thu June 02, 2016, 17:27:12
Thanks Steve. All credit for this must go to Dave and John Smith. I couldn't get the day off work unfortuately, but the photos and video show what a lovely occasion it was.

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