Residents of Andover in the Borough of Test Valley came out in force yesterday to enjoy a Freedom Parade by the three military regiments who have been granted the Freedom of the Borough; 22 Engineer Regiment representing the Corps of Royal Engineers, the 3rd Battalion of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and the Army Air Corps.
Service personnel from the three regiments, led by the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regimental Band marched through the town centre in a show of ceremony and colour with bayonets fixed. The parade concluded with a flypast of an Apache Helicopter by the Army Air Corps and a memorial service to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme took place in the Garden of Remembrance.
The civic party was led by the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson Esquire and The Worshipful the Mayor of Test Valley, Councillor Karen Hamilton.
Colour Sergeant Billy Menzies, 34 is from Andover. A Regular Army Soldier with the 2nd Battalion, Billy has been posted with the 3rd Battalion PWRR in a training capacity. His role has been to provide training weekends focusing on developing their medical capability. He said “Working with the Reserves has been absolutely amazing which, to be honest, was completely unexpected. They are 100% professional as is their commitment because they have to juggle their careers and their families as well.” He added “I am really proud to march through my home town today and it’s nice to come back as I don’t get here very often. Hopefully I’ll see some old friends in the crowds”.
Private Chris Jones, 22, has been a member of the Army Reserve for almost four years, serving with 3 PWRR based at HQ Company in Canterbury. Chris worked in Customer Care for the National Trust but after deploying on Operation TOSCA in Cyprus and on Operation TORAL in Afghanistan with 1st Battalion Royal Anglian, he has now decided to pursue a military career. He said “I’m just back from an operational tour in Afghanistan and I’ve decided that I’m going to transfer full time to the Royal Navy in January next year. I’d like to become either Aircrew or a diver.”
Corporal Russell Butler, 32, is an Army Reservist with A Company in Farnham and works for a logistics company. He said “I’ve been a member of the Army Reserve for four and a half years. I left the Regular Army in 2005 after serving more than six years with the 1st Battalion PWRR and toyed with getting back in. Being a reservist is better than I thought and they are more experienced and more current than I thought they’d be. There’s always something different to do whether it’s ceremonial, community based or green training”. Russell is originally from Basingstoke and said “I feel quite proud to be on parade today especially as my wife and kids are here too”.