Yesterday, Bristol welcomed the company of the HMS Prince of Wales (R09) for a parade in our city centre. Around 300 Royal Navy personnel marched through Bristol, led by the Royal Marines Band, cheered by crowds.
The Queen-Elizabeth class, fifth generation aircraft carrier has been affiliated with Bristol since 2016, an honour shared with our fellow port city of Liverpool. Since then, I have been lucky to visit the ship in Rosyth, Scotland, as part of the half-century relationship between ship and city which sees the ship’s crest displayed in the foyer of City Hall.
In March, we awarded the HMS Prince of Wales and its company with Freedom of the City. This, the highest civic award we can bestow, gives military units the right to parade “with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed”.
This weekend they assembled on the ramps of City Hall and on College Green, which was decked out with large Union Flags as during His Majesty King Charles III’s Proclamation last September. We then saw a rare civic occasion in that parade. It was another perfect chance to celebrate our the Armed Forces who serve our country. Many of the ship’s company are from the wider south west region so, in many ways, this was a homecoming before the aircraft carrier returns to full service later this year.
I was proud to welcome Captain Richard Hewitt OBE as part of our city’s civic party, which was led by Councillor Paul Goggin, the Right Honourable Lord Mayor of the City and County of Bristol, and Robert Bourns DL, the Vice Lord Lieutenant. Alongside us on the daises on College Green and, on the parade route, opposite the Hippodrome to take the salute were: Councillor Helen Holland, our Armed Forces Champion and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and the Integrated Care System; the City Sword Bearer; Royal Marines Brigadier Jock Fraser MBE ADC, Naval Regional Commander for Wales and Western England, based at HMS Flying Fox, the Royal Naval Reserve Unit on Winterstoke Road in south Bristol; and Colonel Jane Thompson TD DL PhD APFS, Deputy Lieutenant for the County and City of Bristol and the first woman to command the Bristol City and County Army Cadet Force.
We then joined the ship’s company at a blessing in Bristol Cathedral, followed by a reception for them and their families at City Hall.
All images: Mayor of Bristol’s office