Crowds lined the streets of Gateshead to watch a regiment’s last ever march to celebrate the freedom of the borough.
Led by a full military band, the 72 Engineer Regiment, made up of dedicated volunteers, proudly made its way from the town’s Shipley Art Gallery to the new Trinity Square development.
Based at Napier Armoury near Gateshead Central Library, 72 Engineer Regiment was awarded the Freedom of Gateshead in 2011 for its close ties to the area. Traditionally, regiments awarded freedom status exercise their right to parade through their town every three years.
Spectators lined the route in support of the regiment and cheered them on.
Mayor of Gateshead, Coun Jack Graham, said: “We are firm supporters of our armed forces in Gateshead. Members of the 72 Engineer Regiment work in some of the most dangerous and difficult situations imaginable, to ensure the safety of our country.
“We want each and every one of them to know that the people of the North East appreciate that work.”
The regiment disbands later this year as part of the Government’s restructure of the British Army.
The regiment’s Gateshead headquarters will be lost but its 103 Squadron which meets at Debdon Gardens in Heaton, Newcastle, will continue, although it will become part of 21 Engineer Regiment based in Ripon in North Yorkshire.
The new regiment will include both regular soldiers and reservists, making it a hybrid force which Defence Secretary Philip Hammond favours in his vision for a reformed military.
72 Engineer Regiment is made up of volunteer Royal Engineers, aged 18 to 64, who provide front line troops with invaluable specialist engineer support. Their work can vary from demolitions, bridging, construction, water supply, field engineering and counter mobility, to self-supporting functions such as vehicle maintenance and repairs, catering, medical and clerical duties.
All Royal Engineers are soldiers first, but they are also combat engineers and tradesmen.
Staff Sgt Jay Kaye, 32, from Howdon, North Tyneside, said: “It was a privilege to exercise the freedom of Gateshead. So many people came out to support us. It was a fantastic day for the regiment.”
Chief Royal Engineer, Lt General Sir Mark Mans, said: “While the Regiment will disband, the Royal Engineer tradition on the Tyne will be continued by 103 (Tyne Electrical Engineers) Field Squadron. The Armed Forces presence in Gateshead will also endure through 101 Regiment Royal Artillery, HMS Calliope and by the well supported Cadet Force units.”