A Parachute Regiment battalion has been awarded with the city of Leed’s highest civic honour in recognition of its many years of devoted service.
The 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (4 PARA) was given the Honorary Freedom of Leeds in part for its long historical association with the northern city.
4 PARA was established in 1942 and is the first military unit to be bestowed with the honour since HMS Ark Royal, which received it in 1973.
The battalion, hailing from Thornbury Barracks in Pudsey, West Yorkshire, has supported the Lord Mayor’s Civic Remembrance Sunday commemorations as the key military lead for the Parade.
They’ve also taken part in Leeds' Armed Forces Day celebrations and provide a number of services for the city’s veterans, acting as a key signatory of the city’s Armed Forces Community Covenant.
On Wednesday evening 4 PARA was recognised in a special virtual ceremony, attended by HM Lord-Lieutenant for West Yorkshire, Mr Ed Anderson, who presented the award to Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Rick Lewin.
In addition to the award, the unit’s Honorary Freedom status will be recognised with a permanent inscription at Leeds Civic Hall and they’ve been promised a parade when it’s safe to hold one.
Leeds City Council leader councillor Judith Blake said the governing body had had the "distinct pleasure" of bestowing Freedom status only to a select few.
"Given the long and distinguished military history of Leeds, it is our great honour to recognise 4 PARA with Honorary Freedom of the City, allowing their efforts to be remembered and celebrated for many years to come," she said.
"In a year where we haven’t been able to come together in our usual ways to honour the heroic service of our Armed Forces, we hope that bestowing this status on the battalion helps underline our tremendous respect for all they do to keep us safe."
Lt Col Rick Lewin, the Commanding Officer of 4 PARA, stressed how much the award meant to the unit.
“As a battalion, we relish the chance to work alongside Leeds City Council to celebrate and remember the work of our Armed Forces," he said.
“Over our many years at Thornbury Barracks, Leeds has always been so welcoming and supportive, so to be recognised with the city’s highest civic honour, Freedom of Entry, fills us all with extreme pride.
“During the pandemic, it has been our great honour to support the city we call home, working in our local community to help deliver vital mobile testing sites.
“We have seen first-hand the heart and resilience of the people of Leeds – and we cannot wait to be able to enjoy this achievement with them when it is safe to do so.”