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Vikings stride through Haverhill as they exercise their freedom of the town

The Royal Anglian Regiment celebrated receiving the Freedom of Haverhill by parading through the town on Sunday

The Regiment’s 1st Battalion, nicknamed ‘The Vikings’, exercised the Freedom of Haverhill for the first time.

Granted by Haverhill Town Council in June following a proposal put forward by Cllr Tony Brown (a former soldier himself) while he was the town’s mayor, the ceremonial decree allows the regiment to march through the town with bayonets fixed, drums beating, band playing and colours flying.

The 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment parades along Haverhill High Street. Picture by Mark Westley.
The 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment parades along Haverhill High Street. Picture by Mark Westley.

Led by the Band of the Royal Artillery, over 100 troops from the Regiment’s C Company and D Company were cheered and clapped as they marched proudly along Swan Lane, Ehringshausen Way, Mount Road, High Street and finally onto the Market Square, where Colonel Guy Foden accepted the Freedom Scroll on behalf of the regiment from the Mayor of Haverhill Councillor John Burns.

Cllr Burns addressed the parade saying: “Rest assured as you go back to your duties that the people of Haverhill are supportive of you wherever you are deployed.

“We think of you and we are incredibly proud of what you do for our country.”

He added: “My predecessor as mayor, Councillor Tony Brown, promoted the idea of adopting the regiment and on behalf of the town I sincerely thank him for doing so.

“And finally, in my words of appreciation for the organisation of this event, I would like to thank all the town council staff, volunteers and even young amateur film-makers who have given up their time to help me in supporting our Armed Forces.

“It is important this town recognises and remembers the links we have with soldiers of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

“We are adopting all of you, not just those who have personal links with the town or even call it home.

“You can know, as you go about your duties, that the people of Haverhill are supporting you wherever you are deployed, such as your recent tours of Afghanistan and South Sudan.

“We think of you and we are very proud of you.

“We are incredibly proud of what you do for our country.”

The Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Phillip Moxey MBE, who led the parade said: “We are delighted that Haverhill has seen fit to honour the regiment.

“I would like to thank the people of Haverhill for their heartfelt welcome and support which has made it a hugely memorable day for all the marching soldiers.”

The arts centre hosted a pre-parade reception for about 60 invited guests, among them Lt Col Moxey, the band’s Sergeant-Major Jonathan Marsh, and Colonel Guy Foden, the Regiment’s commanding officer.

After the parade a reception was held at St Mary's Church, to which all the soldiers, not just the ranking officers, were invited.

Although a little disappointed with the public turnout (probably due to the inclement weather on the day) Cllr Burns said he was very ‘proud’ of the occasion.

He said: “I was extremely pleased and I was extremely proud.

“When it was all over I felt elated at what a good job we have done.

“The organisation was good, considering the weather and everything else, I was really proud and I think the Army were exemplary and represented the regiment perfectly.”

It has been a busy year for the 1st Battalion of the Regiment.

Some 80 soldiers from the Battalion deployed alongside 39 Engineer Regiment on a United Nations peacekeeping mission to South Sudan.

Known as Operation TRENTON the soldiers deployed from February to July.

Based in Malakal and Bentiu, The Vikings’ primary tasks were base security and force protection for the engineers as they completed a wide range of construction projects, including building a hospital and new roads.

A further 280 soldiers were also deployed on Operation TORAL; the British contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan from September 2018 to April 2019.

The deployment saw The Vikings form part of the Kabul Security Force (KSF) providing force protection and secure transport for UK and Coalition mentors - a role often referred to as a ‘guardian angel.’

The Vikings worked with NATO allies including Estonia, Finland, Australia, USA and Denmark to form the Kabul Security Force whose role was to move the mentors, who are training, advising and assisting the Afghan forces, around the area, ensuring they can conduct their mission safely.

They also provided a quick reaction force in support of Afghan Security Forces, on standby to respond to any major incident within Kabul.

In addition to the two operational deployments, the Regiment’s B (Suffolk) Company has taken part in a unique exercise in Finland as part of a joint expeditionary force involving nearly 1,000 soldiers.

Some 100 soldiers spend 10 days in and around the Finnish capital, Helsinki with the Guard Jaeger Regiment on Exercise SABRE.

It is the first time any British Army unit has been involved in bilateral military manoeuvres of this kind with the Finnish defence forces and involved urban warfare training on Santahamina island, where the men of B Company were based for the duration of the deployment.

A key part of the time spent with the Finns was conducting urban warfare operations training.Exercise Sabre was the final exercise of the Finnish conscripts who began their military service in January and are serving in rank-and-file duties, and for those conscript leaders, high-level readiness unit members and military drivers who began their service this month.

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