In a very rare, if not unique, distinction, all five regiments of Foot Guards received the Freedom of the City on Wednesday 21 March. The honour now entitles them to march through the city centre with ‘drums beating, bayonets fixed and colours flying’.
The Freedom of the City is being granted to the Foot Guards after a 2,000-name petition was presented to Birmingham City Council last summer requesting the honour for one of the regiments, and councillors then decided they wanted to grant all five regiments the freedom.
To celebrate this honour, a parade of some 230 officers and guardsmen from all five regiments of Foot Guards marched through the city, watched by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Anita Ward, and the Major General Commanding the Household Division and General Officer Commanding London District, Major General George Norton.
The parade was led by the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Ghika, as they marched through the city centre bearing their colours, accompanied by the Band of the Irish Guards led by Drum Major William Harvey.
Following the parade the Guards were hosted at a civic reception by the Lord Mayor and the Council.
The Lord Mayor’s son, Lance Sergeant Vince Hockley, currently serves with the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in Aldershot, and the Lord Mayor was delighted that he could join her in Birmingham for this special day.
Having previously served in Afghanistan, he is now undertaking a language course and hoping to return to operational duty in due course.
Reading out the freedom declaration to the parade and the crowds of onlookers in Victoria Square, Councillor Ward said:
First and foremost, as Lord Mayor, this is a very proud day for me and the people of Birmingham. Honouring the Guards Division with the freedom of the second city demonstrates our recognition of the commitment our young men and women make to the Armed Forces.
In response, Major General Norton said:
All regiments of the Foot Guards are immensely grateful to the Lord Mayor and City of Birmingham for the honour they are conferring on us today, which reflects the long and close relationship that we have had with both the city and its community.
Those on parade yesterday were elements of Nijmegen Company, Grenadier Guards; Number 7 Company, Coldstream Guards; F Company, Scots Guards; the 1st Battalion Irish Guards; and the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards (most of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards have deployed to Afghanistan in the past few days).
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