Hundreds of people lined the streets of the town of Cardigan on Friday to welcome soldiers exercising their freedom of the county of Ceredigion.
Troops from C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, were clapped and cheered as they marched through Cardigan led by the Band of the Prince of Wales’s Division, Shenkin the regimental goat and Goat Major Sergeant David Joseph.
The Freedom of Ceredigion was conferred on The Royal Welsh (made up of the 1st Battalion, the 2nd Battalion and the 3rd Battalion) in April 2009.
Cadet forces and ex-servicemen from the county also took part in the parade while, in addition, Brigadier Philip Napier, Commander of 160 (Wales) Brigade and the head of the Army in Wales, Mark Williams, MP for Ceredigion, and Mark Cole, Chairman of Ceredigion County Council, were in attendance, among other dignitaries.
Addressing the crowd, Brigadier Napier said:
As the Colonel of the Regiment representing the Royal Welsh today, it’s a very great honour and privilege that we are back here in Ceredigion after many years since the freedom of the county was conferred on us.
It is a particular pleasure for the parade to be held in this lovely and historic town that has such strong connections with our forebears in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the Royal Welsh Regiment.
“Since its formation in 2006, soldiers from The Royal Welsh have been on operations almost continuously, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. The regiment has no fewer than five Military Crosses, one operational CBE, two operational OBEs and a staggering 15 Mentions in Despatches.”
We are all keenly aware of the numbers of our men who have lost their lives or have been seriously injured in the service to their country. But I know that here in Ceredigion support for soldiers and their families is rock solid. This means a huge amount to us.
We promise to go wherever you send us and do whatever you require of us, to risk our lives in the nation’s interest. What we look for in exchange is for you to remember us in your prayers, support us and look after us when we return.
The Brigadier also spoke of his pride at the work being done in support of an Armed Forces Community Covenant:
I am so grateful to the County of Ceredigion and for all the hard work you’re doing towards an Armed Forces Community Covenant which I hope we can sign in the coming weeks and months,” he said.
I can assure you we will make every effort to prove ourselves worthy of such distinction and honour.
Councillor Mark Cole, Chairman of Ceredigion County Council, said the parade offered a ‘unique’ opportunity to say thank you to Service personnel.
In addressing the crowd and parade, Councillor Cole told the soldiers:
We have immense pride in you and recognise the sacrifices made on a daily basis for your country. We know first-hand, here in Ceredigion, of those sacrifices.
We stand side-by-side with you and your loved ones. Today is a special day for us because we have a unique opportunity to say thank you. Thank you all for your dedication, commitment and service to our country.
Mark Williams, MP for Ceredigion, said the turnout on the streets was testament to the support people there had for the Army:
I was pleasantly surprised by the numbers on the streets,” he said. “People we’ve seen here have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and it’s about saying thanks for that commitment.
We sometimes think about the affection for our forces on a UK-level - let’s remember the affection the Armed Forces are held in on a Welsh-level too.
That’s being borne out at the moment by the push in Ceredigion on the whole to see a community covenant become a reality.
Anybody who saw the crowds on the streets would testify to the affection that our Armed Forces are held in and the commitment we feel to them.