An historic military parade takes place in Chester city centre later this month.
The Mercian Regiment Freedom Parade on Saturday, February 17, will see soldiers of 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment exercise their Freedom of the City, granted by Chester City Council ten years ago.
And the parade will commemorate the homecoming of the battalion from recent operational tours in South Sudan, Northern Iraq and the Falkland Islands with a Service of Thanksgiving in Chester Cathedral .
The event also marks the anniversary of the Battle of Meeanee, a famous victory won by the regiment’s forebears in 1843, and will be the last parade by the battalion before they vacate The Dale Barracks, in Upton, and move to Cyprus in Summer 2018. The battalion has been based at The Dale Barracks since 2014.
Cheshire West and Chester Council has been working to keep road closures to a minimum, however a number of the city’s key roads will need to close from 9am to noon.
The parade starts at Chester Castle at 10.15am and makes its way to the cathedral for the service at 11am.
At noon, following the service, the Mercian parade will form up outside the cathedral and proceed to Eastgate Street, where the formal salute will take place, before heading back to the castle.
The council will ensure roads re-open as soon as possible after the event.
Councillor Bob Rudd , chairman of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “The granting of the Freedom of the City is entirely a ceremonial honour, but is the oldest and highest civic honour that can be bestowed on a military unit.
“The historic close ties between the regiment and the borough are very important and we all wish them well on their move to Cyprus.”
Councillor Razia Daniels , the Lord Mayor of Chester, said: “It is such an honour and privilege to be part of this momentous occasion.
“I would encourage residents, business owners and visitors to come and embrace the event and enjoy the cultural background of our beautiful city while supporting the Mercian Freedom Parade and the soldiers.”
Lieutenant colonel Ben Wilde MBE, commanding officer of 2 Mercian, will command the parade – though this marks his last day in command of the battalion.
He said: “It is a great privilege to march through the streets of Chester, especially since this is to commemorate everyone’s safe return from a series of demanding operational deployments to South Sudan, Northern Iraq and the Falkland Islands .
“While it will also be a sad occasion as this will be the last time the battalion will parade through Chester before the move to Cyprus, it is also our opportunity to thank the Chester community for their support during our time away.”
“As a battalion we always have an eye on the future, but it is critical that we draw inspiration from our history as well as from our strong roots in the local community.”