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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The pride on their faces was unmistakable as 350 Light Dragoons saw their regiment receive the freedom of Dereham in front of thousands of flag-waving Norfolk residents.
The crowds who welcomed the Swanton Morley-based troops back from their six-month tour of Afghanistan were 10 deep in places, and cheered as Major General Andrew Stewart told them they had made Dereham the regiment’s home.
Organisers estimated that 6,000 people lined the route, even more than the 5,000 who supported the 2009 parade.
The troops started their parade in Norwich Street, continued down Commercial Road and Wellington Road before arriving at the Market Place where mayor Linda Monument awarded them the freedom of the town.
Around 800 students from local schools cheered the flypast from 31 Squadron from RAF Marham as well as the tanks and other military equipment that brought up the rear of the parade, complete with smiling servicemen on top waving to the spectators.
Volunteers from the air cadets sold special Dereham Times souvenir supplements for a requested £1.50 donation to the Light Dragoon Colonel’s Appeal, but many people offered £5, £10 or even £20 notes to the cause.
Wives of the Dragoons wearing special yellow sashes also collected charitable contributions for their Light Dragoons Wives Club Calendar 2013, with proceeds going to the same appeal.
Following the parade, servicemen joined civic leaders in a service of thanksgiving at St Nicholas’s Church.