FREEDOM of the borough of Christchurch previously bestowed on the disbanded Devon and Dorset Regiment has been conferred on its successor super regiment The Rifles.

In a colourful ceremony in the council chamber on Tuesday evening Mayor Cllr Josephine Spencer presented the framed illuminated scroll to Brigadier Jolyon Jackson, south-west regional commander of The Rifles.

Brig Jackson presented the council with a silver bugle before blowing the trumpet for the Rifles.

He urged the Christchurch community to rally round its new regiment to support the serving soldiers, encourage the cadets and Territorials and help its veterans returning to civilian life.

"Each time you see The Rifles, remember we are your regiment and do what you can to support them," said Brig Jackson.

"These young men like to have letters, parcels and pen pals.

"The roots of the regiment are in the people, the voters and taxpayers. It is so important to us despite your view of government policy to know we have your unswerving support."

And he told councillors: "We look forward to marching through your borough - probably not this year or next - and you will see flags flying."

Formed last year through the amalgamation of the Devon and Dorsets with the Light Infantry, Royal Green Jackets and county regiments of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Berkshire, The Rifles has inherited battle honours stretching back over three centuries of history from Marlborough to Montgomery.

Already Rifles units have seen action - and suffered casualties - in Iraq and the 1st Battalion which incorporates the soldiers of the former Devon and Dorset regiment will be going to Afghanistan in the autumn.

Leader of the council Cllr Alan Griffiths said he found the ceremony incredibly moving' and pledged the borough support for the armed forces and The Rifles in particular.

"Their service should be recognised," he said.