Soldiers to get freedom of Witney

Soldiers from 4624 Squadron based at RAF Brize Norton are set to hold their first freedom parade in Witney next month.

It is thought this will be the first time Witney has played host to a freedom parade, which sees soldiers exercise their right to march through a town.

It will begin in Woodford Way at 10.20am on September 14, and soldiers will parade along Welch Way and High Street to the war memorial with ceremonial weapons and bayonets.

A salute will be taken at the memorial, before the troops head to St Mary’s Church for a service of Eucharist.

Witney councillor Peter Dorward is organising the parade, which stems from an invitation he extended to the squadron when he was mayor last year.

“I spoke with the squadron boss and said ‘how do you fancy parading through Witney’, and he said, ‘if the mayor would like to invite the squadron, that would be fine’,” said Mr Dorward.

“It was agreed, and a letter was sent asking them if they would like to do this.

“Speaking to people, they’re quite pleased because we have a great military background in this area, and they like to see the boys in blue paraded.”

Witney’s mayor Jeanette Baker will take the salute, and she said: “As mayor, I am delighted that the squadron has chosen Witney for its first ever march.

“This colourful event is a suitably impressive way of commemorating the forthcoming Battle of Britain week and a great way to celebrate our strong relationship with our neighbours at RAF Brize Norton.”

The Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadron was awarded the Freedom of the County of Oxfordshire in May last year in recognition of over 30 years of service.

They were also honoured for their commitment to the defence of the realm, and for supporting various local charities and communities.

Squadron leader Mark Vincenti said: “The granting of the freedom to the military is full of historic symbolism.

“All members of the squadron are pleased that Witney accepted our request to host our inaugural freedom march.”