The Rochdale community came out in force to welcome home hundreds of soldiers who have returned from serving in Afghanistan.
The First Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers paraded through Rochdale Town Centre today (19 November) while hundreds of well-wishers lined the streets to show their appreciation. Children and young people from local schools; Hopwood Hall College, St Thomas Primary, St Edwards Primary, Ashfield Valley Primary, Scared Heart Primary and Redwood Special Needs School, waived on the soldiers as they marched by.
The event was the first of just six parades to be held across the UK. The town was bestowed the honour to host the parade in recognition of its historical links to the Fusiliers since 1881 and its continuous support for the Armed Forces. The Fusiliers were awarded Freedom of the Borough in 1947.
Rochdale Borough Council Leader, Colin Lambert said: “Today we said thank you to the men and women who serve to protect us, in the best way we know how. The parade meant a great deal to many Rochdale families and the whole community. Proof of that was seen here this morning as hundreds of locals lined our streets to show how proud we are of our Armed Forces.”
It has been four years since Rochdale hosted the last homecoming parade. Since then the town has strengthened its ties with the Armed Forces. Rochdale was one of the first councils in the country to sign the Armed Forces Community Covenant last November, making a commitment to develop services which help to integrate Armed Forces personnel back into civilian life.
The council has also pledged further support through its ‘guaranteed interview scheme’ for ex-armed forces personnel applicants where they meet certain qualifying criteria. The aim of this proposal is to deliver the council's commitment to further the ‘Armed Forces Community Covenant’ and make sure local ex-armed forces personnel are not disadvantaged as a result of their service.
Furthermore, across Rochdale borough, over 1000 soldiers have already benefitted from free access to municipal leisure facilities. This pilot scheme was launched in June this year and is open to personnel living outside of the borough.
For their work the council has received national recognition from the Royal British Legion for the work delivered in its commitment to make a difference through the Armed Forces Covenant.
Councillor Alan McCarthy, Lead Member for the Armed Forces at Rochdale Borough Council added: “I am very proud of the way Rochdale has come out in full force to cheer on our service men and women. It gives the Fusiliers a real morale boost to see how much their sacrifices are valued.
“It has been a great opportunity for us to welcome back these heroes to our shores. At the same time we must remember those who have tragically not returned. To our fallen comrades we simply say – thank you.”
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