Take a quiet Oxfordshire town, add a member of Royalty, The Scots Guards, a rare set of medals worth £3 Million and 30 Air Cadets and you are certain to get a very special event!
The 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards were being awarded the Freedom of Wantage in the presence of HRH The Duke of Kent to say thank you for their service and to also commemorate the first ever Victoria Cross. Local Air Cadets from Wantage and Didcot were on hand to make sure the day went without a hitch!
Flight Lieutenant Nigel Furlong, CO of 1861 (Wantage) Squadron takes up the story “Today we are supporting the Freedom of Wantage parade. We are route lining and acting as VIP escorts for HRH The Duke of Kent and a number of other senior military officers, The Lord Lieutenant and Mayors of Oxfordshire”.
Lt Col Lincoln-Jopp, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards continues “Today is an extraordinary day of historical linkages, with the Scots Guards coming down from our permanent base in North Yorkshire to celebrate the Freedom of Wantage and also remember the links we have with this area. In 1854, a young officer in the Scots Fusilier Guards called Ensign Robert Lindsey won the first Victoria Cross later becoming the Member of Parliament for this area and when ennobled became the first Lord Wantage”.
Major James Sibold, past Mayor of Wantage and event organiser explains why Wantage chose the Scots Guards “This event means a lot to the people of Wantage; its a very patriotic town as we raise more per capita for the Royal British Legion than a lot of other towns. We do not have another military unit nearby and we wanted to show our support for the troops so I looked at the heritage of the town and I found that Lord Wantage was the first recipient of the Victoria Cross whilst serving with the Scots Guards; so he was the ideal candidate and there is no one better than the Scots Guards for bit of pomp and circumstance”.
As well as lining the route, the cadets were also on hand to guard the freedom scroll before it was awarded. Cadet Alex Beckett of 1861 (Wantage) Squadron, who was in the party, explains “we are guarding the scroll showing the Freedom of the Town before it is presented to the Guards so no one touches it – this is a very important job”.
Following their arrival in the town in an armoured car the day also saw a vary rare outing of the first ever Victoria Cross which was paraded through the streets by three of the Lord Lieutenants of Oxfordshire Cadets including Air Cadet Flight Sergeant Lee Newby of 594 (Thame) Squadron who explained the importance of their role “today we have been taking care of the 1st Victoria Cross that was awarded to Lord Wantage back in 1874 through streets of his home town. It felt quite exhilarating really as the medals are worth around £3 Million and are rarely seen in public and we were walking them through the town – it was really, really, good”.
The parade finished as the Guards left the market square with a flypast of a Royal Air Force Benson Puma much to the delight of HRH The Duke of Kent.
Summing up the day Cadet Sudip Limbe of 2410 (Didcot) Squadron, who was one of the team lining the route, said “we’ve been controlling the crowd really and watching the Guards coming through the town. It felt really inspirational and everything went smoothly”. Continuing, Flight Lieutenant Nigel Furlong said “the cadets have been exceptional today and I have had lots of compliments from a number of senior officers including several Colonels and a retired Major General. They are a credit to the Air Training Corps and the local community”.
The final word goes to Lt Col Lincoln-Jopp who was impressed with the success of the day “its been spectacular, the people of Wantage and Wantage Town Council have done us absolutely proud and I couldn’t have wanted for anything to be better”.