HUNDREDS turned out to see soldiers of the Mercian Regiment march through the centre of Ellesmere Port on their way to receive the Freedom of the Borough on Friday morning.

In what was probably the biggest public gathering since the Port’s bicentenary celebrations in 1995, scores of people lined the route as troops from the regiment’s 1st (Cheshire) battalion paraded from the car park in Wellington Road, via Cambridge Road and Whitby Road into Civic Square.

Traffic was briefly halted to allow them to pass by.

Every inch of the way they were clapped and cheered by onlookers, many of whom were waving Union Flags to show their thanks for the way the troops represented the town during their last tour of active service in Iraq.

Among them were whole classes from a number of primary schools in and around the town centre.

Led by the scarlet-coated band of the Prince of Wales Division, the regiment, in green camouflage uniforms and wearing the new eagle badge of the Mercians on their caps, formed up in the square, which was also packed with enthusiastic spectators.

The civic party, led by the mayor, Cllr Keith Butcher, and including borough MP Andrew Miller and a number of forces veterans, was assembled on the steps of the Civic Hall.

Cllr Butcher officially greeted the detachment by telling them this was a significant day in the life of the borough and also of the regiment.

And he told them: “You are welcome at any time here in Ellesmere Port & Neston.”

He said the entire borough was proud of the work they did and was “very much indebted” to them for the way they served the area and the country.

Then, to the cheers of the crowd, the mayor handed over the large illuminated scroll which signifies the freedom, to Brigadier John Thomson, honorary colonel of the regiment’s 4th battalion.

He told the gathering: “As the Cheshire Regiment we enjoyed centuries of support from this area and it is good to see that this continues.

“As a regiment, we take a huge source of support from you.”

The detachment was then dismissed before filing inside the Civic Hal for a reception.

The Mercians’ predecessor regiment the Cheshires, was the last unit to be afforded the freedom when it marched through the town in 1986.

A soundslide of the parade can be seen on our website at