The ship’s company of HMS Ledbury will visit their affiliated town of Ledbury this weekend and exercise their Freedom with a parade through the streets.
Arriving on Saturday (February 22), the first engagement for the sailors from the Hunt-Class mine hunter will be a friendly football match against Ledbury Swifts, followed later by a reception at the Royal British Legion.
On Sunday, the mood becomes one of immense pride for the ship’s company as the crew forms up at Lawnside Road car park to exercise its Freedom for only the third time since the honour was bestowed in 2007.
Drums beating, bayonets fixed and colours flying, the parade will march from Lawnside Road via Bye Street to High Street in the town centre arriving at 10.45am.
There the parade will be inspected by the Mayor of Ledbury, Councillor Terry Widdows, before the Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire, Lady Darnley, takes the salute, along with Councillor Widdows.
The parade will also feature Ross & Monmouth Sea Cadets, Hereford Sea Cadets, members of the Royal British Legion, who will also be standard bearers on the day, and Ledbury Army Cadets, all led by the Royal Marine Band from Plymouth.
An address will be given by the Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire and the Mayor with the Commanding Officer of HMS Ledbury, Lieutenant Commander Simon Pressdee responding, before the parade moves off to march past the war memorial before the Lord Lieutenant takes the salute.
Ledbury Town Council will host a special reception for the ship’s company and civic dignitaries afterwards.
“HMS Ledbury was honoured to have the Freedom of the Town of Ledbury conferred on her in 2007 and we marched for the first time that year,” said Lt Cdr Pressdee.
“It is with particular pride that the ship’s company will march through the streets of Ledbury on this occasion, only the third time since that historic date.
“I am honoured to be able to present my crew to the Lord Lieutenant, Mayor, members of Ledbury Town Council and other civic dignitaries.
“A freedom parade is a very special moment in any ship’s affiliation and we couldn’t be more proud to exercise this honour in our twin town, with which we have a close bond.
“I hope that local people may also find time to come along and support their ship, as well as the other town and district groups who will do us the honour of marching with us.”
Mine hunter HMS Ledbury is one eight Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels operated by the Royal Navy and based in Portsmouth.
The ship was built by Vosper Thornycroft in Southampton and commissioned in June 1981 by its Sponsor Lady Elizabeth Berthan.
The Hunt-Class live up to their name – mine hunters. Using high-definition sonar, they hunt the world’s seabeds for mines and lost explosives, which are then destroyed by the ship’s own clearance diving teams or the Seafox mine-disposal system.
The relatively small, but perfectly-formed ships have glass-reinforced plastic hulls to conceal their presence from the lurking underwater threat of sea-mines.
The Hunts are valuable assets for the Navy’s fleet, clearing the way of mines to allow safe passage for larger forces.
Press Release, February 19, 2014; Image: Royal Navy