Town marks historic military return

IT is a tradition that dates back into the mists of time.

IT is a tradition that dates back into the mists of time.

Since feudal times the military have marched through English towns to mark victory, national events, and homecoming.

And today Woodbridge was due to welcome 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) as it exercises its freedom of the small Suffolk town.

The history of such parades maybe uncertain, but it seems to be a relic of those days when local militias were granted the freedom of the town only when they had won the trust of the locals.

Indeed freedom of a town gives the unit the right to march through the streets with 'swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and Colours flying'.

The Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), Warrant Officer Class 1 Glen Walton, said: “As a Regiment we are delighted to have been given this honour by the people of Woodbridge and this is the second time the Regiment will exercise its right.

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“The parade is something we are all looking forward to, and we hope to be able to show the regiment off to as many people as possible on the day.

“In our time here the people of Woodbridge have made us feel extremely welcome, and we look forward to being able to build further relationships with the local community.”

And if the army are proud to be there then we must, in turn, be proud of our men and women as more than 300 soldiers from the regiment will march through the town accompanied by a military band.

This is the second time the regiment has held such a double event; the first was back in 2007 a year after 23 Engineer Regiment moved into their newly-built home at Rock Barracks in 2006.

The regiment, which is part of Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade, has twice been to Afghanistan in that time, the first in the summer of 2006 and again last summer, 2008.

And it is these tours of duty that the people of Woodbridge will be marking today.

The war in Afghanistan may be unpopular and many may not agree with Britain's involvement but our soldiers have been sent there by our democratically-elected leaders and they deserve our support.

While war is waged in our name, wherever in the world, we too have a duty to our military services to be behind them as they carry out their duties.

It is part of an age-old covenant that exists between the public at large and the professional armed forces we employ on our behalf.

National defence and security is the prime duty of our leaders and to fulfil that duty most agree we must have organised and professional armed forces.

We must pay for, look after, and support those who fight for our country to keep it safe. We must look after those who are injured and we must look after those who are left behind by those who die in combat.

The British people have always had a close relationship with our armed forces and today's parade is a manifestation of that relationship.

The parade itself maybe a relic of earlier times but what it stands for and what it means is as relevant and important as ever and something which the people of Woodbridge know only too well.

What do you think of our armed forces? Have you been affected by the war in Afghanistan? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

On Saturday the regiment will throw open the doors of its home at Rock Barracks, Woodbridge Airfield, Sutton Heath for a Charity Fun Day, to the public to see their army neighbours at work.

The day will feature military skills, including bridge building, a freefall parachute display, air display and equipment race plus more than 100 trade and military stands.

The event, which in 2007 attracted more than 5,000 people, will be a showcase of the regiment's military skills

Profits made on the day will be split among a number of charities.

Entrance costs are �3 for adults, �2 for children under 16 and �8 for a family ticket. Parking will be provided free of charge on Woodbridge Airfield with doors open at 11am

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