SOLDIERS from The Rifles were greeted with applause by crowds of Wimborne residents when they accepted the Freedom of the Town on Sunday.

The regiment was granted the honour in 2010 by mayor John Burden, who wanted to show the respect felt by the people of the town for the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families.

Led by the band of the Rifles, and accompanied by cadets and veterans of its founding regiments, including the Dorsets and the Devon and Dorsets, the troops assembled in the Square at midday to be presented with a ceremonial scroll.

Cllr Burden said he had been inspired to award the honour after being moved by the funeral of a soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2009.

“When Rifleman Phil Allen was killed, and his funeral service was held here in Wimborne, the whole town came out to pay their respects,” he said.

“It was a great honour and privilege for me, as someone born and bred here, to be able to do this. People here feel a close connection with the Forces, particularly given all the action they have seen recently.

“I’m really pleased with how it went today, it was a lovely day and lots of people turned out, and the Rifles, of course, were splendid.”

Brigadier Richard Toomey, who accepted the scroll and presented the mayor with a silver bugle, the emblem of the Rifles, said the regiment felt proud and welcomed.

“It is a tremendous honour, you can see in the warm and friendly reception we have had the connection between the regiment and the people of the town,” he said.

“It is very much appreciated by the men, and it is important for us that the regiment is part of our society, not a separate thing.

“There are many veterans here today from regiments which merged back in 2007 to make up the Rifles, and we teach our soldiers, many of whom come from Dorset, the history of those regiments so they feel they are part of something deeper.

“Events like this reinforce that feeling.”

After the parade the participants enjoyed refreshments at the Allendale Community Centre, before the final sounding of the retreat, a musical and marching display, at 2pm.

Minster memorial unveiled to fallen heroes

ON the same day as Wimborne celebrated its links with the Rifles a plaque commemorating its own fallen heroes was unveiled in the Minster.

Engraved with gold lettering on slate, the plaque sits under the 1939-45 plaque and records the names of Chief Petty Officer Owen Aubrey, killed in China during the Yangtse Incident in 1949, Private Arthur Judge, killed in Korea during the battle of Imjin River in 1951, and Trooper Andrew Howarth, who was killed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, by an improvised explosive device in September, 2010.

The poignant event was attended by friends and relatives of the fallen men alongside mayor John Burden, local Royal British Legion president John Raymond, and senior officers from the Rifles.

The Rev Alan Davies, Wimborne legion chaplain, dedicated the plaque and spoke of the ongoing sacrifice of our service personnel, who have been on active service somewhere almost every year since 1945.

The memorial was funded by the town council and built by James Case of Minster Stone Memorials.