Hundreds of people, young and old, cheering and waving flags, turned out to support soldiers from The Rifles as they marched through Gloucester after being granted the freedom of the city last week.
Nearly 200 soldiers representing the seven battalions of the regiment took part, accompanied by the Salamanca Band of The Rifles, Old Comrades from the ‘Glorious Glosters’, the British Korean Veterans Association and the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, and members of the Gloucestershire Army Cadet Force.
Marching troops came from 4th Battalion The Rifles (4 RIFLES), a light role infantry battalion based in Bulford, and from A Company, 6th Battalion The Rifles (6 RIFLES), a Territorial Army (TA) battalion based in Gloucester.
About 600 soldiers from 4 RIFLES were deployed to Afghanistan during 2009 and 2010. The battalion tragically lost seven soldiers during those two tours, but featured highly in the operational honours and awards lists.
6 RIFLES is currently deploying TA soldiers to Afghanistan with 3 Commando Brigade.
The parade started at the Victoria Basin Dock where the freedom of the city was conferred upon The Rifles by the Mayor of Gloucester, Councillor Jan Lugg, accompanied by the Colonel Commandant of The Rifles, General Sir Nick Parker, who is currently Commander-in-Chief of the British Army’s Land Forces.
At the same time the Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Dame Janet Trotter, presented new Rifles banners to the county’s Army Cadet Force.
General Parker said:
It is a great honour to have the Freedom of Gloucester. It is a very important moment when we can connect with the towns and cities where our soldiers come from, who support us, and who recognise and look after our veterans.
Following the parade, a service of commemoration to mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Imjin River took place at Gloucester Cathedral.
The small stone cross carved by Colonel J P Carne, Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, while he was a prisoner of war after the Battle of Imjin River, was carried to the altar by 81-year-old Sam Mercer, a veteran of the Korean War.
During the moving service two Elizabeth Cross presentations were made to relatives of Glosters who died as a result of serving in Korea, and Major Charlie Grist, the grandson of the Second-in-Command of the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment during the battle, read the US Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation that was awarded to the regiment for ‘extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy’.