Naval Service in Plymouth Freedom of the City parade

The Royal Navy was cheered through the city centre on Friday 20 September to celebrate the flourishing close links with the community. Thousands of Plymouth people lined the streets as 500 sailors and Royal Marines marched for a ceremonial event marking the close relationship between the city and the Royal Navy.

Serving personnel and veterans took part in the parade marking the 50th anniversary of the Naval Service in Plymouth being granted the Freedom of the City.

The Lord Mayor of Plymouth Councillor Mrs Vivien Pengelly addressed the parade. She said:

"This is a highly significant and iconic occasion in the history of Plymouth.

"There has been Royal Naval activity in Plymouth for 400 years including Drake and the Armada."

"The people of Plymouth have a special affection for the Royal Navy as can be seen by the warm welcome by the crowds here today and I and the city salute the dedication, courage and professionalism of the Royal Navy."

She said although the Royal Navy was on active service throughout the world a large number of submarines, ships and other units had deployed personnel to the event which was much appreciated  by the city.

The importance and influence of the Royal Navy extended beyond the defence of the realm to benefit and enrich the economy, tourism, sport and culture of Plymouth.

Coun Pengelly added:

"The Freedom of the City is the greatest ceremonial honour a local authority can bestow and gives martial organisations the privilege of marching into the city ‘with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed."

The honour was first granted to the Plymouth Command of the Royal Navy in September 1963 and close to 1,000 sailors marched up to the Hoe for the civic event.

This is a highly significant and iconic occasion in the history of Plymouth. There has been Royal Naval activity in Plymouth for 400 years including Drake and the Armada

The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Mrs Vivien Pengelly

Rear Admiral Ben Key, head of the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation in HM Naval Base, Devonport, Plymouth, also addressed the parade, guests and crowds. He said:

“Thank you for the warm welcome we enjoy as the Naval Service on a day-to-day basis in the city.

"It is an honour to accept this Freedom, previously presented by this great city 50 years ago, and re-confirmed today."

He said the relationship between Plymouth and the Royal Navy is as strong today as it was in Drake’s era.

The Navy was extremely proud to be at the ceremony and the Navy was at the heart of the warm community it enjoyed with Plymouth and the South West.

Rear Admiral Key added:

“Plymouth continues to play a vital role in the Royal Navy’s support to naval operations on the frontline worldwide." 

He looked forward to another 50 years of close relationship between the city and the service.

Devonport Naval Base sailor Able Seaman Chef Morag Barnett, 21, of Aberdeen, was a member of the ceremonial guard inspected by the Lord Mayor. She has been in the Navy three years and said:

“This was the highlight of my career, I felt proud to be part of this event.

"It was great to see so many people cheering us, there were more people than we thought would be here.

"This is the first time I’ve been in a ceremonial event since I passed into the Navy from HMS Raleigh.

"It was a great occasion."

A key event in this year’s Ocean City Festival, the anniversary parade attracted thousands of enthusiastic spectators and reaffirmed Plymouth’s enduring support for the Royal Navy and the critical role it plays both at home and overseas.

The 50th anniversary parade also paid tribute to the sailors, marines and support-staff based here in Plymouth and remember those injured or fallen in service.

Devonport Naval Base Commander, Commodore Graeme Little said:

“I am delighted Plymouth has chosen to mark this important occasion with a renewal of the honour of the Freedom of the City.

"The Royal Navy and the city of Plymouth are so very closely linked and we are proud to have such a strong positive and mutually beneficial relationship.”

The event began with a 13-gun salute from the Royal Citadel as the sailors and Royal Marines stepped off.

Led by HM Royal Marines Band, the parade Veterans and standard bearers waiting at the Minster Church of St Andrew will then join the parade as it moves down Royal Parade, around Derry’s Cross and back up Royal Parade, arriving on the Armada Way piazza at around 1.20pm.

A salute was taken by Deputy Lieutenant of Devon, Sir Richard Ibbotson, the Lord Mayor and Admiral Key as personnel lined up on the piazza.

The Lord Mayor presented the Freedom scroll to Rear Admiral Key, enshrining the Royal Navy’s historic right to march through the city.

Units taking part included Devonport-based submarines HMS Trenchant, HMS Torbay (both Trafalgar class) and HMS Vengeance (Vanguard Class), Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland, 30 Commando Royal Marines (Stonehouse), 42 Commando Royal Marines (Bickleigh, near Plymouth) and 1 Assault Squadron Royal Marines (Devonport Naval Base).

8 - Phase 2 Trainees currently conducting submarine qualification (assigned to submarines in 3 weeks) -  proud to be representing the Royal Navy on this event.

The event was followed by a civic reception at the Council House, hosted by the Lord Mayor and attended by local commanding officers from all of the armed services, military personnel, veterans, councillors, freemen and aldermen.

Rear Admiral Key presented the Lord Mayor with draughtsmen’s artistic copies by Rennie (who designed Plymouth Breakwater) of the plans for Royal William Yard in response to the Freedom award.

Commodore Little presented  the Lord Mayor with a Union Flag in a casket and photographs of the Lord Mayor of Plymouth in 1963 (when the last Freedom was awarded) Harold Pattinson when he visited Devonport Naval Base joined by Vice Admiral Nigel Henderson (former Commander in Chief Plymouth).