Rifles march through Christchurch

HUNDREDS lined the streets to watch the Rifles regiment march through Christchurch.

The parade was the first time the Rifles have exercised their right to the Freedom of the Borough, at a ceremony attended by the Mayor of Christchurch.

The ceremony started at the Quomps near Christchurch Quay, where Christchurch Mayor, Trish Jamieson, inspected the parade before it took off through the streets.

The Rifles marched at 160 steps a minute, making their way through the town centre via Sopers Lane, down the High Street and onto Castle Street, finishing after marching down Bridge Street.

The Freedom Parade ended at the Civic Offices where the Mayor held a reception, attended by the Rifles and several dignitaries.

The Mayor, Cllr Jamieson said it was a “special” day for the town.

She said: “I’m on a high, feeling brilliant. Fortunately I didn’t have to march alongside them.

“This will go right to the top of my list of what I have done in my year as Mayor.”

The Rifles were originally given the Freedom of the Borough in 2008 after being formed in 2007, but were unable to conduct the parade until Saturday due to operational commitments.

Since their formation over nine years ago, the Rifles have been deployed on operations more than other regiments, seeing 64 Riflemen killed in action and a similar number left with life changing injuries.

Brigadier Charlie Maconochie, the South West Rifles Colonel was part of the parade. He said: “I’m very proud and it’s a great honour. There’s nothing like being able to exercise the freedom and of course particularly in Christchurch.

“This is long overdue so I’m really glad, and what was really nice was to see how many of the local community came out and supported it.

“Of course that means so much to the Riflemen on parade because we draw great strength from having that support from the local community and you could see that was huge today. 

“We are really, really grateful for all the support we got.”

“Today we had the key pillars of our regiment, with regulars, reserves, cadets, associations and the local community, that’s what makes up the whole ethos with the Rifles family. We had all of these elements on parade and that’s what made it really special.”

A forming regiment of the Rifles were granted Freedom of the Borough in Christchurch in July 1980, which is why Brigadier Maconochie believes the relationship between Christchurch and the Rifles is “incredibly important historically”.

The Rifles have previously been granted the Freedom of the Borough in Bournemouth and Poole, among other towns around Dorset.