Councillors back plan to give regiments freedom of town to recognise historical links

RAF Wyton Freedom of Huntingdonshire ceremony, at Market Hill, Huntingdon,

RAF Wyton Freedom of Huntingdonshire ceremony, at Market Hill, Huntingdon, - Credit: Archant

Huntingdon will see two military marches through the town centre this year after the freedom of the town was offered to two military organisations with long-standing historic links to the community.

The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment (PWRR) and the United States Air Force’s 501st Wing from RAF Alconbury will parade through the town centre with bands playing, bayonets fixed and flying.

The PWRR march is expected to take place in May and the USAF event in September to coincide with the American’s Air Force Week.

Huntingdon Town Council voted unanimously to offer the freedom of the town to the two organisations. RAF Wyton already has the honour and last exercised its right to march through the town in 2016.

Town clerk Philip Peacock explained that the old 31st Foot (Huntingdonshire) Regiment merged with other units over the years to form the modern day Princess of Wales Royal Regiment.

“The 31st Foot’s colours used to be kept in St Mary’s Church and when the regiment was at Bassingbourn they asked for the colours back and they were restored,” Mr Peacock said.

“When they went off to Cyprus they let us have them back and they were put on display and the Duke of Gloucester came to see them.”

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Mr Peacock said the council wanted to return the colours to the regiment at a significant event after its return to the UK and the idea came up to offer the freedom of the town.

He said the PWRR still had links to Huntingdon through the sole surviving piece of silverware, a salt cellar, belonging to the original regiment.

“There is only one piece of the silverware left, the Huntingdon Salt, the rest was lost in the Indian Ocean,” Mr Peacock said.

He said that if regimental guests were invited to take the salt they took part in a ceremony in which the salt came from the ancient cellar which also contained a piece of the colours.

The USAF at Alconbury also has long links to the town going back to the Second World War.

Mr Peacock said only 10 per cent of the military personnel from Alconbury lived on the base with the rest in local communities and it was felt to be the right opportunity to recognise this.