The latest in an occasional mini-series looking at life behind the fence of one of the largest helicopter bases in Europe, RNAS Culdrose, which calls Helston its home.

This week: Meet the man leading this morning's Freedom of Helston Parade.

Lieutenant Chris Ashdown, 39, is the officer of the guard for this year’s RNAS Culdrose Freedom of Helston Parade, which takes place in the town this morning.

He will lead the first division of sailors - sword drawn - directly behind the band and the party carrying the Royal Navy flag, when the parade makes its way through Helston on Wednesday morning from 10am. He is the man who will bark out the orders to the rest of the parade.

Lieutenant Ashdown, who has worked his way up from the ranks in a 19-year career with the navy, said he volunteered to lead the parade for the first time this year.

He said: “I love doing community work and talking to people about the ethos of the navy. I am quite happy to go out and talk to groups and I like talking to schools.”

When not training for the parade, he spends his time as a deputy senior support engineer in the Air Engineering Department. His job involves managing the many contractors who work on behalf of the navy to maintain the helicopters’ complicated systems.

He also has a team of naval engineers who can be drafted in to help the main Merlin helicopter naval air squadrons, which are deployed on Royal Navy warships around the world.

Lieutenant Ashdown added: “I also manage a team of 60 engineers and we provide that additional hands-on support for the front-line Merlin squadrons. If, for example, a squadron is going on deployment, we can step in so their engineers can get some leave.

“I love my job as I am an engineer at heart. The Merlin helicopters are interesting. When I first started, I was on Lynx aircraft, but they are so small by comparison. The Merlin has lots more room so you can actually get stuff out to check or fix.”

The Freedom of Helston Parade will assemble in Trengrouse Way at 10am and march down Meneage Street, halting outside the Guildhall at 10.15am for the mayor of Helston to inspect the guard. This will be followed by speeches before the parade reforms to march down Coinagehall Street, with the town council taking the salute at 11am. A flypast by a helicopter from Culdrose is also planned at this point, depending on the weather.

Meneage Street, Coinagehall Street and Monument Road will be closed for the event.