Ilkeston - The Boys
Are Back In Town
w/e 16 March 2008 All
this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490
Back in 2002 the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment
(29th/45th Foot) or the Woofers as they are known, exercised
their right as Freemen of the Borough to march through Ilkeston
with bayonets fixed and drums beating and as I was working at
the time, my wife took some photos (see here). Now, nearly six years later it
was good to see the boys back in town after they had marched
up Bath Street to the Market Place.
The 2nd Battalion of the Mercian Regiment marching through Ilkeston.
The Woofers were formed in 1970 following an amalgamation of
the the Worcestershire Regiment, themselves an amalgamation of
the 29th (Worcestershire) and 36th (Herefordshire) Regiments
with the Sherwood Foresters who were formed when the 45th (Nottinghamshire)
merged with the 95th (Derbyshire). Since then the Army has undergone
another reorganisation and the Woofers joined forces with the
Cheshire Regiment and the Staffordshire Regiment in 2007 to become
the Mercian Regiment.
The honour of the Freedom of the Borough of Erewash already enjoyed
by the Woofers was to be accorded to the new Mercian Regiment
and was one reason for the return and march through Ilkeston
on Monday March 10th.
Another reason was for the
residents of Ilkeston to turn out in their thousands to take
a photo or two, cheer, applaud, wave flags and welcome our boys
home after their tour of duty in Afghanistan. Why else would
there be this many people on Bath Street and the Market Place
on a Monday morning? And yes that was me in the gold coloured
coat (right) caught by the BBC news team running alongside the
Regiment to try and get to a good vantage point ahead of them.
The Mercians came to a halt outside the bunting-decked Town Hall
and as the crowds amassed around them it gave me a chance to
catch my breath after the sprint up Bath Street.
As I wheedled my way to the front, this cheerful face helped
clear a path through the crowds. He told me that the Mercians
still contain a majority of locally recruited men and many of
those on parade were from Chesterfield, Mansfield and the local
area generally, including several from Ilkeston. This carries
on the tradition of the Sherwood Foresters as they too recruited
mainly from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
After the ceremony to bestow the Freedom of the Borough on the
Mercian Regiment, Colonel Simon Banton presented the Mayor with
a new regimental history and the Mercian's flag. In his speech
Colonel Banton made special mention of Private Brian Tunnicliffe
from Ilkeston, who was killed whilst on duty in Afghanistan.
Private Tunnicliffe was one of nine soldiers from the Mercian
Regiment who made the ultimate sacrifice during the conflict
in which the battalion also won several awards for gallantry.
He also thanked all those who had turned out to show their appreciation
of the Regiment for the warmth of their greeting saying that
the links between Erewash and the Sherwood Foresters went back
for hundreds of years. The soldiers then posed with the Civic
party and Veterans representing the Royal British Legion for
The proceedings came to a close as the Colour Party lowered their
flags and the soldiers departed to the Co-Op for lunch before
making their way to Chesterfield in the afternoon for another
parade through the streets. The following day the exercise was
repeated in Mansfield. After their return from Afghanistan, the
Mercians spent a short time in Germany, some of them enjoying
a sky-diving course and shortly they will be returning to their
base in Northern Ireland. It is expected they will once again
be deployed in Afghanistan in 2009.
As the formalities came to an end Simon Hare from the BBC (left)
and Rajiv Popat of ITV (right) conducted interviews with some
of the local residents for broadcast later in their respective
television news bulletins.
As well as the Veterans and other well wishers, a number of the
local schools had allowed their pupils to attend the welcome
home and Colonel Banton made a special point of thanking them
and their teachers for their attendance and support. Young and
old alike though are grateful for the Mercian's commitment and
professionalism and the people of Ilkeston wish them well in
all their future engagements.