4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment (4 PARA) received the Freedom of Liverpool on Saturday, 24 March.
The unit, which is the Reserve Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, marked the event with a parade through the city and a military flypast.
As paratroopers paraded through Liverpool’s streets, a pair of Lynx helicopters of 9 Regiment Army Air Corps made several passes over the historic waterfront, which was drenched in spring sunshine.
Saturday’s honour coincided with the Paras’ 70th anniversary and the 67th Anniversary of the Rhine Crossing by Airborne Forces (Operation VARSITY), which included soldiers from the unit’s parent battalions. Veterans who took part in that operation attended Saturday’s celebrations.
The day began with a service at Liverpool Parish Church, during which the Freedom scroll was presented to the Battalion.
Around 200 paratroopers then marched through the city with Colours flying and bayonets fixed. Afterwards, a civic reception was held for them in Liverpool Town Hall, hosted by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Frank Prendergast, and the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, Dame Lorna Muirhead DBE.
The day’s events concluded with a regimental dinner in the city’s historic St George’s Hall at which Private Conrad Lewis, a 4 PARA soldier killed in action in February 2011 whilst serving in Afghanistan with the Regiment’s 3rd Battalion, was honoured.
Private Lewis’s parents travelled from the West Midlands to receive his Operational Service Medal and his Mention in Despatches from Major Dick Hargreaves MC, aged 92, the last surviving Company Commander from the unit’s original Officers’ Mess in 1942.
Lieutenant Colonel John Boyd, the Battalion’s Commanding Officer, said:
Our battalion is hugely proud of this honour and values enormously its links with the people of Liverpool and its outlying areas.
It means a lot to us to receive such recognition from a city so closely linked to our wartime heritage of the 13th (Lancashire) Battalion the Parachute Regiment. I would like to thank the public for their continued support of my soldiers and I hope to see the already strong links between 4 PARA and the City of Liverpool grow in the years to come.
The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Prendergast, added:
Liverpool has a long and proud history of supporting the military, and I am delighted that we are acknowledging the Battalion’s services in the field of combat and their long standing connections with the city.
The commitment of the men and their families who have managed to combine their civilian life and work with the demands of working alongside regular soldiers in hostile environments around the globe is exemplary. We as a city wish to mark this achievement in the highest way possible by honouring them. They are truly first class ambassadors for our city.
Sergeant Joey Keenan, from Liverpool, said:
It was great to march through my hometown and see so many people out to see us. It has been a very special day for me and my family.
The granting of the Freedom of Liverpool is the pinnacle of a long and illustrious relationship between the Parachute Regiment and the city. The 13th (Lancashire) Battalion, predecessors of today’s 4th Battalion, received their Colours from Field Marshall The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein outside St George’s Hall in 1953.
4 PARA is the Reserve Battalion of the Parachute Regiment and consists of volunteers who have civilian employment. They are fully-trained parachute soldiers who dedicate a significant amount of their free time to the Army.
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