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  Freedom Parade, Northampton - 29th March 1984
Thursday 29 March 1984 - time 0942. Eight coaches carrying 230 Officers and soldiers of the Corps and 38 musicians of the Staff Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers, Chatham, pulled out of Simpson Barracks to take part in the Freedom Parade in Northampton

Weeks and weeks of preparation had ended. The last item of kit and equipment had been received, checked and fitted. The Catering Staff from Bicester had worked late the previous night and were at the Guildhall early to add the final touches to the Buffet Luncheon. The last few days had been one continual round of interviews for the media, a Radio programme "With Bayonets Fixed" had been recorded and gone 'on air' over Radio Northampton. Film crews had been filming and interviewing personalities from the Director to a recently joined recruit. A request from the BBC film crew that the Parade 'do it again for technical reasons' nearly floored the Parade RSM.

Now it was for real.

Promptly at 1045 hrs the Colonel-in-Chief, HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester arrived at the rear door of the Guildhall in company with the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, Capt J Lowther, our Colonel Commandant, General Sir George Cooper and the Director, Brigadier F J Lucas. The party was greeted by the Mayor, Councillor Roger Winter, and the Chief Executive & Town Cler, Mr Alan Parkhouse, and introducted to The Quartermaster General, General Sir Richard Trant, The GOC Eastern District, Major General J R A MacMillan, and the Comd 54 (Inf) Bde, Brigadier L J Davey.

1100 hrs the Mayor arrived at the saluting base accompanied by the Chief Executive and were received with a General Salute. The Colonel-on-Chief took his place and received a Royal Salute as his Personal Standard was broken on the flagstaff.

The Mayor, accompanied by the DAPL, inspected the parade, pausing frequently to have a brief word with many of the soldiers on parade. Immediately afterwoods the dignitaries, both civil and military returned to the Guildhall for the Freedom Ceremony in
the Council Chamber.

The leader of the Borough Council, Councillor Cyril Benton said "This is a very special day both for Northampton and for The Royal Pioneer Corps." He recalled the history of the Corps since its formation in 1939 and described the Corps as the 'unsung Heroes' of the Army. Councillor Geoff Howes leader of the Labour Group on the Council seconded Councillor Benton's proposal that the Corps be admitted as Honorary Freeman of the Borough. He briefly recalled the gallantry of Cpl Scully who was awarded the George Cross in 1941. Finally he said that he noted with great pleasure the Corps Motto - Labour Conquers all ! (or work conquers everything).

In a brief speech the Duke of Gloucester remarked that the granting of the Freedom would strengthen the links between the Corps and the Borough "Many of the men already view the town with very great affection" he said., "They will now feel they belong to the community, even more than they have before - this is a very special occasion".

The Colonel-in-chief then presented to the Borough, on behalf of the Corps, a Pioneer Sword mounted on a bronze base. The Sword, 140 years old, has a dual purpose and reflects the Corps dual role, It provides both a saw and a weapon of defence.

The ceremony in the Council Chamber was relayed to the Parade by a PA system. Returning outside to the Saluting Base the Mayor raised the presentation Sword above his head so that both the Parade and the many spectators could see it before reading the Freedom Scroll to the Troops.

On the command 'fix bayonets' the Corps Flag was broken and the Parade presented arms as a General Salute to the citizens of Northampton, before exercising the newly acquited right to march through the streets of Northampton with bayonets fixed. Immediately the Parade stepped off, the crowd of spectators spontaneously begain applauding which was taken up throughout the march through the town. Finally the Parade approached the Saluting Base when the RE Band changed to the Corps March 'Pioneer Corps' composed by an Officer of the Corps, Captain Norman Demuth in 1943.

It was a splendid parade, perhaps summed up by a letter received by the Comdt of the Training Centre following the parade:-

Dear Sir,

Having watched the Royal Pioneer Corps during the ceremony today I felt I must write and congratulate you both on obtaining the Freedom and on the appearance and performance of the soldiers.
I have lived in this town all my life and was very pleased that the Corps have, at last, obtained some recognition and hope that we can look forward to many more Parades in the Town. Such a well drilled parade is a pleasure to watch.

Yours sincerely,...

The Mayor, Councillor Roger Winter,
   invites the Colonel-in-Chief, HRH The
   Duke  of Gloucester, to sign the freedom Roll.


• Accompanied by Major M Hunting,
   the Mayor inspects No 1 Company


• The Mayor holds aloft the Pioneer    Sword presented to the Borough
   by the Corps

• 'Fix Bayonets'
   Platoon Commander is
   Lt M T Lake  of 34 Company    (Volunteers)
• The Director and Mrs Lucas welcome    newly promoted Sgt R Popkin and
   his wife Irene to the Freedom Ball

Ken Howard, the arist who specialises in painting militiary occasions, has been commissioned to paint two water colours of the parade.

The civic lunch that followed the parade was held in the large hall of the Guildhall. Over 125 serving and ex-serving members of the Corps were invited to attend by the civic authorities. Our Honorary Colonel Commandant, Brigadier Mutch, together with three other former Directors, Brigadiers Addy, Walker and Ryall , were among those present. A superb fanfare played by seven trumpeters of the RE Band heralded the arrival of the distinguished guests. Grace was said by the Mayors Chaplain - Canon Howard Tibbs, of the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, our Corps Padre. The buffet meal was truly magnificent. The Army Catering Corps had exceeded themselves, as they alway do on occasions such as this. We owe them a sincere thankyou, also to the Staff Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers whose string sextet provided the music during lunch. In a brief speech before proposing a toast to the Borough of Northampton the Colonel Commandant joked that 'After a courtship lasting 24 years the marriage had, at last, taken place - we now look forward to a long happy honeymoon period.'

The Mayor began his reply by reading a Signal Message received from Colonel H J Hickman, Commander Labour Resource HQ BAOR, on behalf of all Pioneers serving in Germany. He than thanked the Colonel-in-Chief for his reference to the City of Northampton and asked that if an opportunity presented itself perhaps he would put in a good word for the Borough to be granted the status of a City. The Mayor went on to recall that Northampton was the first town to declare allegience to Oliver Cromwell, but as three members of the Royal Family had visited the Borough during the past 18 months, perhaps all had now been forgiven !

• At Castle Ashby L to R: Mrs Wendy Winter,
  Councillor Roger Winter, Brigadier F Lucas,
  Capt J Lowther, Mrs F Lucas and Mrs J Lowther

The day was rounded off by the Officers, Warrant Officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers holding a Freedom Day Ball at Castle Ashby, the 16th Century home of the Marquess of Northampton. Many civil dignitories were our guests, including The Lord Lieutenant and Mrs J Lowther, The Mayor and Mayoress of Northampton and the Chairman of Daventry District Council. Music was again provided by the Royal Engineers in the form of the Group Mainstream. At Simpson Barracks the junior ranks were also enjoying themselves at a disco and buffet supper.

• Click on above to enlarge

So the day ended. Another date added to the Corps history:-
17th October 1939 - 26th November 1946 - 29th March 1984.


 Freedom Day Parade - Northampton

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