WOKING residents turned out en-masse in the town centre on St George’s Day to wave flags and cheer as recruits from the Army Training Centre, Pirbright, paraded into Jubilee Square to officially acknowledge their Freedom of Woking Borough.
The award is the highest that any council can bestow and gives the honour and distinction to all ranks of the centre to march through the streets of the Borough on ceremonial occasions, with colours flying, bands playing, drums beating and bayonets fixed.
In a rousing display of military music and parading troops, the Army Training Centre, Pirbright exercised this Freedom for the first time last Sunday.
The troops were welcomed by the Mayor of Woking, Cllr Anne Murray and given a blessing by the Vicar of Christ Church, the Rev Dr Peter Haywood. A prayer was said by the Army Chaplain, Padre Josefa Mairara and the National Anthem was sung before the troops paraded out of Jubilee Square in military formation.
At a later private event, a vellum scroll was presented to the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard Green by the mayor. Woking Borough Council awarded Freedom of the Borough to the Centre on 8 December last year.
Cllr Murray said: “It was a great honour to attend such an historic event. The Freedom of the Borough is not one that is lightly awarded and has only been given to five individuals previously, with the Army Training Centre being the first collective Freedom of the Borough ever bestowed by Woking Borough Council.
“We are very proud of work that the centre does, not just to train up our troops but also to build relationships within the communities in which it thrives. This award recognises the friendly association which has long existed between the Borough and the Army Training Centre, Pirbright and is a mark of respect to all of the recruits and soldiers within it.”
The Freedom of the Borough recognises exceptional contributions, or distinctive service to the Borough by an individual or group of individuals. The Army Training Centre, based at the Alexander Barracks in Pirbright, has a long and a strong relationship with Woking residents.
Established in 1875, The Army Training Centre has more than 5,000 new recruits and reservists each year. The 14-week course prepares all recruits, both male and female, over the age of 17, for service. They will then go on to join a wide range of military corps and regiments.