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Freedom Parade, Northampton - 29th March
|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
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
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
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.
The Mayor, Councillor Roger Winter,
invites the Colonel-in-Chief, HRH The
Duke of Gloucester, to sign the freedom
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
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
17th October 1939 - 26th November 1946 - 29th March 1984.
Day Parade - Northampton