Royal British Legion given freedom of Market Drayton marks honour with poignant parade and flyover

A Royal British Legion branch was formally given the honour of the freedom of their town in a moving ceremony this weekend.

Royal British Legion Freedom of the Town parade and ceremony in Market Drayton
Royal British Legion Freedom of the Town parade and ceremony in Market Drayton

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Market Drayton in the sweltering heat on Saturday to watch the parade of former servicemen and women to mark the bestowing of the award.

The heat was too much for one of the standard-bearers, who fainted during the event.

Organisers said paramedics who were at the ceremony were with him immediately and he was taken to hospital as a precaution.

The parade was led by Wellington Brass Band from Church Street to Market Drayton’s war memorial for an official presentation and service.

There was also a performance by The Silver Buglers of The Light Infantry Association and a moving flyover by the only remaining flying Avro Anson Aircraft, taking off from Sleap airfield.

Standard-bearers from Royal British Legion branches across the county and beyond, along with representatives from regimental associations, took part in the parade, leading the members of the legion.

Also marching was Nick Birch, the son of Lenny Birch, who devoted his life to Market Drayton's Royal British Legion.

He died aged 88 during Covid lockdown and was remembered at Saturday's event.

Mr Birch said that taking part was a way of honouring his father.

"He died during Covid so he didn’t really get the send-off that he would have done, so it’s in memory of him and to show him that we still care."

Lenny, who served in the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry and Yorkshire Light Infantry, joined the branch in 1951 and headed up the Poppy Appeal for years. In 2009 he received the RBL Gold Badge, the highest honour the legion can bestow.

Market Drayton mayor Roy Aldcroft

Mike Hughes, community support representative of the branch, said it was a wonderful day.

"It was amazing, we had a great time. The Freedom of the Town is an an accolade bestowed by the town council and to have it bestowed to the legion is indeed a honour."

He said that after the parade and ceremony there was a reception at the Royal British Legion headquarters in Market Drayton where, in the best military tradition, a curry and other refreshments were served.

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