THE ROYAL Navy’s Freedom of the City of Plymouth was cemented yesterday in a “highly significant and iconic” ceremony.
First bestowed upon Plymouth Command in September 1963, the honour was renewed in front of thousands of people who cheered the Sailors and Royal Marines through the city streets.
A 13-gun salute from Commandos at the Royal Citadel marked the start of the parade with the Royal Marines Band leading the way from the Citadel gates.
Schoolchildren from St Peter’s Church of England Primary School waved the personnel down Hoe Road before the parade turned off towards the city centre.
During the ceremony at the Piazza, Lord Mayor Vivien Pengelly addressed the Royal Navy.
She said: “This is a highly significant and iconic occasion in the history of Plymouth.
“The people of Plymouth have a special affection for the Royal Navy as can be seen by the warm welcome by the crowds here today and I and the city salute the dedication, courage and professionalism of the Royal Navy.”
Rear Admiral Ben Key, head of Flag Officer Sea Training, told the crowd: “Thank you for the warm welcome we enjoy in this city and the kind words you have spoken about us. It’s an honour for me to accept, on behalf of the Sailors, Royal Marines and Officers, the freedom of this great city as previously granted 50 years ago and re-confirmed today.”
Speaking of the relationship between Plymouth and the Royal Navy, he said: “It’s as strong now as it was in Drake’s time. The City of Plymouth is at the heart of the Royal Navy in the South West. The warmth of the reception today is testament to that feeling.
“The City of Plymouth will continue to play a vital role in supporting the service that seeks to protect the country’s interests at home and overseas, from the sea, above the sea and on land for many years to come.
“We very much look forward to the next 50 years and beyond.”
Taking part in her first parade was AB Morag Barnett. The 21-year-old, who is based at HMS Drake, said those involved had been rehearsing for two weeks.
She added: “It was really good and there was a much better turnout than we expected.
“It was a little bit emotional marching through the city but it was really good.”
As part of the occasion veterans from the various Royal Navy and Royal Marines associations were invited to join the parade at St Andrew’s Church.
One of those who took part was former Royal Marine Mike Gee, from Eggbuckland.
He said: “It really was very good’ trying to keep in step was hard but I enjoyed every moment.”
Fellow veteran Graham Fulcher was representing the Royal Naval Association as a standard bearer.
He added: “It was a real opportunity for everybody to come out and say thank you to the city of Plymouth. It’s always brilliant when there’s a parade. It is a real occasion and this city does occasions very well.”
Royal Navy veteran and one of the parade marshals Jim Paterson added: “It’s the first time we have seen the Navy on parade in a very long time. It went very well.”
Members of the youth organisation HMS Heroes took part and Alice Kellett presented Adm Key with a poem written by young city laureate Ailie Kerr.
Some of the supporters in the crowd included Plymstock couple Lin and Derek Draper.
Lin said: “We had come for the day to the festival and for the parade. We always come to the military parades and they’re always very good.”
Adm Key presented the Lord Mayor with draughtsmen’s artistic copies of the plans for Royal William Yard.
Commodore Graeme Little presented the Lord Mayor with a Union Flag in a casket and photographs of the Lord Mayor of Plymouth in 1963 Harold Pattinson when he visited Devonport Naval Base…