Free­dom pa­rade for RAF Wit­ter­ing

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Your Telegraph - By Stephen Briggs Twit­ter: @PTJoelLamy 01733 588728

Swords drawn, bay­o­nets fixed, a Hur­ri­cane and Spit­fire fly­ing over­head and The Great Es­cape theme play­ing in the back­ground. It was all part of RAF Wit te ring ex­er­cis­ing its right to pa­rade through Peter­bor­ough city cen­tre on Sun­day af­ter­noon hav­ing been granted Free­dom of the City in 1983.

The oc­ca­sion was made even more spe­cial with the sta­tion cel­e­brat­ing its 100 th an­niver­sary, and for some peo­ple in­volved in the pro­ceed­ings it was very much an af­ter­noon of firsts.

Wing Com­man­der Mike Ainsworth, on his first RAF Wit­ter­ing pa­rade, said: “It was good to get back in the com­mu­nity and with the peo­ple who in ef­fect pay our wages and who we are there to pro­tect.

“Peo­ple need to see what we are do­ing and we need to speak to peo­ple.”

Wing Com­man­der Ainsworth re­cently fin­ished his third tour of Kabul where he had been men­tor­ing the Afghan Na­tional Army, and he was im­pressed by the sight of Peter­bor­ough Cathe­dral and the Guild­hall.

He ex­pressed his plea­sure at be­ing joined by the dozens of peo­ple who watched and filmed the pro­ceed­ings which be­gan from be­hind the Town Hall shortly after 3.50pm.

The pa­rade t hen pro­gressed onto Bourges Boule­vard and Bridge Street where the Mar­ket Har­bor­ough Air Train­ing Corps Band filled the air with the mu­sic from The Great Es­cape, al­most cer­tainly to the sur­prise of the af­ter­noon shop­pers.

Over 50 Royal Air Force per­son­nel in full dress uni­form were joined by the Peter­bor­ough Air Cadets, the Peter­bor­ough Schools Com- bined Cadet Force and a num­ber of vet­er­ans’ or­gan­i­sa­tions.

They made their way onto Cathe­dral Square where they were soon fol­lowed by a num­ber of dig­ni­taries in­clud­ing the Mayor of Peter­bor­ough, Coun­cil­lor David San­ders, who joined Group Cap­tain Rich Prat­ley, Sta­tion Com­man­der at RAF Wit­ter­ing, in an in­spec­tion.

A gift was then handed over by Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil to RAF Wit­ter­ing and Cllr San­ders ex­pressed his “great plea­sure” at be­ing able to hon­our the men and women who the city and na­tion “owe a thanks” for their years of ser­vice.

He added: “Over the years you have gone and con­tinue to go to some of the most dan­ger­ous spots across the globe and risk your lives for the sake of your coun­try.

“Your courage does not go un­no­ticed and I am very pleased to have this op­por­tu­nity to ex­press every­one’s grat­i­tude.

“It is an im­mense hon­our for me to be here to­day to ob­serve RAF Wit­ter­ing ex­er­cise its right as a Free­man.”

With the in­spec­tion com­plete and the fly past en­gag­ing the crowd, there was ap­plause as the pa­rade made its way back to the Town Hall.

The day was also a first for War­rant Of­fi­cer Tony Hobs on who or­gan­ised the pa­rade, and Fly­ing Of­fi­cer Juli­ette Lewis.

Juli­ette, who was pre­vi­ously a Non-com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer, won the Smart Award for out­stand­ing ju­nior rank and was now in her first pa­rade since com­mis­sion­ing.

To make the day even more spe­cial she was able to pa­rade in front of two of her chil­dren. She said: “My kids po­si­tioned them­selves right in front of me and gave me smiles and en­cour­age­ment.”

Juli­ette had won the Smart Award for bring­ing in a new work pro­ce­dure which saved a lot of money, and for work­ing for the Friends of Ch­er­nobyl’s Chil­dren.

Hav­ing spent sev­eral years as a Non-com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer at Wit­ter­ing in the past, she added: “To come back as a com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer, to be aflight com­man­der, is agreat hon­our.”

After the pa­rade, a ser­vice of com­mem­o­ra­tion and thanks­giv­ing for the Bat­tle of Bri­tain dur­ing the Sec­ond World War was held at St John The Bap­tist church.

RAF Wit­ter­ing Free­dom of the City Pa­rade.

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