Thousands of residents lined the streets on Saturday morning to show their support as past and present members of 56 Signal Squadron, Eastbourne’s Army Reserve unit and formerly known as the Territorial Army, paraded through the streets of Eastbourne.
The march marked the squadron’s Freedom of the Borough status and the unit’s long association with the town and it was also something of a farewell parade as the unit is being disbanded because of government cuts to the armed forces.
The squadron, which recruits soldiers locally for the Army Reserve, received the Freedom of the Borough in recognition of its distinguished service to Eastbourne in April 2000.
The accolade is the highest honour Eastbourne Borough Council can bestow on any person or group, and is traditionally the way a town acknowledges the contribution of the armed forces based in their locality. The freedom, which dates back hundreds of years, is given by the mayor and allows the military unit to march through the borough’s streets with colours flying and bayonets fixed.
In order to celebrate their historic relationship with the town, 100 soldiers and veterans connected with 56 Signal Squadron marched proudly through the borough behind the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals, with cheers of support from local Eastbourne residents who were lining the route.
The parade formed up in front of the Burlington Hotel and Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex Peter Field and the mayor Mike Thompson took the General Salute and inspected each of the ranks. At 11.15am, the parade set off from Eastbourne Pier into Terminus Road, through the pedestrian precinct to the station where it turned into Grove Road and continued along to the Town Hall. A civic reception was held in the Town Hall.
As part of the Future Reserves 2020 Review, it was recently announced the army reservists based at the Army Reserve Centre in Seaside will be given the opportunity to re-role and train as infantry soldiers with 3rd Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
Although a date has yet to be fixed, this is likely to take place before April 2016. Council leader David Tutt said, “I know I speak for the whole town when I thank 56 Signal Squadron for its loyal and dedicated service to Eastbourne which stretches back many years. The town has been honoured to call itself home to the squadron.
56 Signal Squadron’s Permanent Staff Admin Officer, Captain Gary Jennion said, “56 Signal Squadron has been in Eastbourne for more than 40 years and we are very proud and honoured to be able to exercise our Freedom today to thank residents of the borough for their support. Sadly this will be our last parade together as a squadron and so all the more poignant”