2nd Battalion, Heritage | 06 February 2024

2nd Battalion Marks the 10th Anniversary of the Regiment’s Freedom of Stevenage

On December 1st, 2023, I found myself getting changed in a small cupboard at Stevenage Council, with Colour Sergeant Steven Presland. We were there to represent the Royal Anglian Regiment, as Stevenage council retired the old and presented the new. This was the 10th Anniversary of the Freedom of the Town for the Royal Anglian Regiment.

Once changed into No.2 Dress, Colour Sergeant Presland and I were shown into the Council’s anteroom to meet the guests and hosts. We were in good company! There was Simon, a veteran who served with the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment. He was very interested in how the Regiment was doing and even more interested in D Company, 2 Royal Anglian, who maintain a strong lineage back to the ‘Beds and Herts’.

Next we were introduced to Baroness Taylor OBE, who herself was leader of Stevenage council in 2009. The Baroness has often spoken on Armed Forces issues in Parliament. We then had a cup of tea with Councillor Claire Parris, who is the Veterans champion, and the organiser of the event I was attending.

Introductions and brews finished, we were shown into the grand corridor where Mayor Myla Arceno was standing next to a large black frame, draped with a red cloth. Mayor Arceno made a speech and talked of the Freedom being the highest honour bestowed by a Council, and the deep connection between the Royal Anglian Regt and the residents of Stevenage. The cloth was removed and the new Anglian Regiment flag was revealed.

Ex-Mayor John Lloyd then unexpectedly whisked us both away to a quieter corner of the building to show us the large Welsh slate, engraved 10 years ago to celebrate the occasion when he was Mayor. Mayor Lloyd said it was a very proud moment in his career and he remembered the drums and flutes playing, as the Regiment marched by Colours, held high. Mayor Lloyd was a good character and immediately put us at ease, showing us down the long corridor of the ‘rogues gallery’ with portraits of the old Mayors of Stevenage and loudly declaring whether they were dead or not.

We ended up back in the anteroom and sat with the veterans to enjoy lunch. A local amateur historian named Dave showed us his father’s medals, and what his dad did during World War 2, in the BEF. We shared stories together, updated old members on how the Battalion was doing, and discussed what the battalion was doing next. As exciting as it always is speaking to the older veterans, whose stories I heard growing up and who probably influenced me joining the British Army, I was pleased to see much younger veterans in attendance too. These were veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it shows that those veterans are appreciated and honoured within their local community.

Here’s to another 10 years of the Freedom of the Town of Stevenage.

By Warrant Officer Class Two (CSM) Freeman, D (Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire) Company.

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