Helston was brought to a standstill as sailors and airmen from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose paraded through the ancient Cornish town.
The annual Freedom of Helston Parade brought children and adults cheering enthusiastically onto the streets; bathed in summer sunshine they lined the ceremonial route waving their Union flags. Friends and families of the naval personnel also turned out to see their loved ones march proudly through the town.
The Culdrose Sailors were exercising their right to parade through the Borough of Helston since 1958 with “Swords drawn, Bayonets fixed, Bands playing and Colours flying”.
Leading this years parade was 771 Naval Air Squadron who had recently celebrated their 76th Anniversary, ahead of HMS Seahawk’s Volunteer Band and a ceremonial Guard of Honour, of personnel from across the West Cornwall Base.
771 NAS are the Royal Navy’s only Search and Rescue Helicopter Squadron, flying their distinctive Grey and Red Sea Kings 24 hours a day 365 days a year, on Search and Rescue duties for the Western Approaches, across the Cornish peninsula, Isles of Scilly and the Atlantic/Channel out to a distance of 200 nautical miles.
2015 will see the final days of the venerable Sea King and in December this year 771 NAS hands over its Search and Rescue commitment on 31 December to a civilian contractor.
One of the busiest and most highly decorated helicopter Squadrons in the UK, They are called out an average 250 times per year. Individual awards and honours have included 4 George Medals, 3 Air Force Crosses, 8 Queen’s Gallantry Medals and 15 Queen’s Commendation for Bravery awards.
The Parade had earlier been inspected by the Mayor of Helston, Councillor Michael Thomas accompanied by Lieutenant Commander Philip Beacham parade Commander and Captain Adrian Orchard OBE, Commanding Officer RNAS Culdrose.
Town Mayor Councillor Michael Thomas who was very impressed by the smart appearance and bearing of everyone said,
“RNAS Culdrose has been an established feature of our town for over 50 years; Mayors have stood here and thanked you for your commitment and service and today I have the honour and privilege to be the 19th Town Mayor to thank you. Links between Helston and Culdrose make us strong and we are proud our town has on its door step such an esteemed and prestigious Naval Air Station.”
HMS Seahawk was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Helston in 1958, and the air station annually exercises this right. Taking the salute with the Mayor of Helston was HMS Seahawk's Commanding Officer Captain Orchard OBE and members of the town council.
The Freedom of a Town tradition dates when fortress walls were necessary to protect its inhabitants from outlaw bands and attacks from feudal lords. Bodies of armed men were often refused entry unless citizens were confident that they meant no harm. The granting of permission for a formed body of armed men to enter a town became a mark of trust and confidence from the town. To be granted freedom of a town is the greatest honour that can be bestowed on a unit within the Armed Forces.
Pictures: Crown Copyright 2015 / Royal Navy