More than 200 sailors and airmen from RNAS Culdrose marched through the streets of Helston last Wednesday for what was widely considered the best Freedom of Helston Parade for many a year.
The sun was on show alongside them, helping draw out the crowds – including pupils from the town’s schools – who lined the processional route to cheer and wave Union flags.
The town was brought to a standstill as the servicemen and women from Culdrose exercised their right to march through the Borough of Helston with “swords drawn, bayonets fixed, bands playing and colours flying”.
The HMS Seahawk Band marched at the head of the parade, which also included platoons of officers, ratings and a Colour party parading with the Queens Colour flanked by Sailors guarding the Ensign.
HMS Seahawk, the naval name for the base that is effectively a “land-based navy ship”, was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Helston in 1958, and the air station annually exercises this right with the ceremonial parade.
Taking the salute with Helston’s mayor, Jonathan Radford-Gaby, was HMS Seahawk commanding officer, Captain Mark Garratt and members of the town council.
Personnel from the air station had earlier been inspected by Mr Radford-Gaby, who was impressed by their smart appearance and bearing.
He said: “HMS Seahawk has always played a big part in our community and it’s always a great pleasure to see the Freedom Parade. It is now part of the history of Helston.”
The tradition of conferring freedom of a town or city dates from when fortress walls were necessary to protect its inhabitants from outlaw bands and the attacks of feudal lords.
Bodies of armed men were refused entry into the town unless the 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 in which that body was held by the citizens of the town.
To be granted freedom of a town or city is the greatest honour that can be bestowed on a unit within the armed forces.