The Army Foundation College were today granted their right to Freedom of the Borough. (11 June 2023).
Commanding Officer, Lt Col Mike Butler AGC( ETS):
l am delighted that the College has been encouraged and supported by the local community to exercise the freedom of Harrogate today. It is not something we take lightly and, as you would expect, we have prepared with military precision.
An honour granted to the College (then the Army Apprentice College) back in 1972, the act of exercising the freedom of a town Or city is steeped in history and sacrifice. The event reflects the outstandingly positive relationship the College enjoys with the local community, and is an opportunity for us to show our appreciation for the support we get from Harrogate and the wider regions. Army training in Harrogate dates back to the end of the Second World War, and through today’s parade we write another page in that history book. It is a hugely proud moment for the 300+ junior soldiers and staff taking part.
Burman and Peninsula Companies formed the marching contingent with Waterloo Company acting as street liners for the event.
The Mayor of Harrogate, Cllr.Michael.Harrison, said:
As mayor of Harrogate, I am privileged to be able to welcome the Army Foundation College to Harrogate today and grant permission for them to exercise their right of Freedom of the Borough.
The army foundation college is the only College of its kind in the world that provides junior entry military training for 16 to 18 year old young men & women to equip them to serve our country in the maintenance of our peace.
The college plays a vital role in providing basic military training and developing future leadership. Offering a mix of military training, personal development and education for the junior soldiers, it provides them with the skills to succeed both in the Armed Forces, and their lives beyond their military service.
Conferring the freedom of entry to a town upon a regiment dates from medieval days, when fortified towns would fasten the town gates and man the defences in alarm at the approach of a body of troops. Certain regiments came to be trusted by the residents of the towns through which they passed and would be accorded the “right, title, privilege, honour and distinction of marching through the streets of the town with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed”. The custom has survived as one of the most prestigious civic ceremonies today and many British Army units have freedom of entry to towns with which they have particularly close ties. Without doubt, the Army Foundation College are a credit to Harrogate and we welcome them as part of our community.
Marching through the town today may well be the first time these young soldiers have had the opportunity to show some of the skills they have already learned, and I know that families, friends, officers and residents will be incredibly proud of what you have already achieved, and what you will achieve in future.
The last time the College exercised their Freedom through Harrogate was in 2019 and it is with pride that I ask you all to show your immense appreciation of our Armed Forces, and in particular our town’s very important part of the British Army of the future – the Army Foundation College, Harrogate.