Dressed in Air Force blue and wearing a brooch given to her by the station a few years ago, the Duchess attended the freedom parade, on Wednesday 2 May, in her capacity as Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Halton.
With over 100 personnel on parade in the Oxfordshire town of Thame, the Duchess received the Freedom Scroll from the Mayor, Councillor David Bretherton.
In a stroke of luck, or meticulous planning on the part of the organisers, the rain held off for the duration of the parade which took place in Thame town centre and was well supported by the community of Thame. The schoolchildren in particular appeared to be in their element, waving Union flags and cheering at every opportunity.
On receiving the Freedom Scroll, the Duchess said:
It is a proud moment in any RAF station’s history to receive the Freedom of Entry. It shows the close ties between a military unit and the support they receive from the communities they live and work amongst.
Addressing the crowd the Duchess added:
You, the good people of Thame, have recognised the significant role that those who serve in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces play at home, and abroad. It is only with the strong support of the public that units like RAF Halton are able to operate effectively, knowing that what they do is so valued by those whom they serve.
Given that freedom awards allow troops to bear arms in a town, the Duchess went on to say:
As you can see on the chests of many of those here today, there is a great wealth of operational and service experience which we have an opportunity to celebrate with pride at this special event.
This latest award from Thame brings Halton’s total number of freedom awards to five, demonstrating the high esteem in which the station is held by local communities. This is due entirely to the efforts of the personnel stationed there and the way they conduct themselves in the area.
Be it for charity, engagement activities or general events, the conduct of Halton’s personnel has achieved the kind of social cohesion with local communities to which many military units aspire.
The Station Commander, Group Captain Chris Elliot, said:
It is an honour and privilege to be awarded the Freedom of Thame, particularly in the presence of our Honorary Air Commodore, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall. The parade today was a visible demonstration of the trust, friendship and community links between RAF Halton and Thame, and we look forward to strengthening this relationship in the coming years.
The parade was of particular importance to Chief Technician Martin Glenn, whose family home has been in Thame for many years. Chief Technician Glenn, who is an active member of the Thame community, said:
It’s an honour to be able to parade in my home town, and to parade in front of royalty makes it an even more special occasion.