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Celle, Germany. 15 July 2010.

Poachers to be given the Freedom of Celle

The Poachers were granted the Freedom of Celle, on 15 July 2010. This is a great honour for the Regiment, cementing the friendship between soldiers of the Royal Anglian Regiment and the people of Celle.

Celle Rathaus (Town Hall) Celle, The Old Castle

Photographs © Scrapbook Pages -

The English custom of giving the Freedom of a City to a Regiment, was adopted by the Town Council of Celle in 1969, when they awarded the Freedom of Celle to 94 Locating Regiment Royal Artillery, the Regiment having served in Lower Saxony for 21 years. This was the first time that a German town had bestowed such an honour on an Artillery Regiment. "Unique in the Federal Republic" was the comment of one German Newspaper. In October 1969 the citizens of Celle saw the complete Regiment on parade at the Schlossplatz.

The Royal Anglians stand with the illustrious ranks of those British Regiments who hold the Freedom of this German town. These also include 14th Signal Regiment (EW)

Privileg für die Royal Anglians: Auszeichnung Freedom of the City

(Source: - 16th July 2010.)

To zoom, click a photograph

The right to march, "with drums beating, flags waving and bayonets fixed" is given by the city of Celle. At the presentation of this right, the Royal Anglians set an impressive scene. At this spectacular event the City of Celle said farewell to the second Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment, who will shortly move to Cyprus in order to prepare for deployment in Afghanistan. Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, first cousin of the Queen Elizabeth II and Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, gave the event at the Celle Stechbahn Royal flair.

There was an air of expectation yesterday afternoon in front of the Old Town Hall in Celle. The royal visit was eagerly awaited by all concerned. VIPs from politics and society provided the framework for the formal ceremony. His Royal Highness was led by Mayor Dirk-Ulrich Mende into the Old Town Hall. In his short speech, the Duke said that he was impressed by the city of Celle and his visit to the castle. He spoke of the paintings of his ancestors displayed on the walls, and highlighted the reason for his visit - in his capacity as Honorary Colonel of the Regiment. His signature is now entered into the Golden Book of Celle, simply "Richard".

Photo © Bernd Francke, Photo © Bernd Francke, Photo © Bernd Francke,

200 soldiers of the Royal Anglian's entered the tilt-yard, led by The Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers and Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel R. Woodisse. Mayor Dirk-Ulrich Mende spoke of the trust and friendship with British soldiers in Celle, "This is the greatest honor Celle can bestow. This symbolic act today is a visible sign of the confidence which we have in our British soldiers, who have been in Celle for over 60 years. A trust that they have earned over decades. British soldiers restored law and order after 12 terrible years of the dictatorship. British soldiers fought for the freedom of Berlin in 1948 at the blockade by the Soviet dictatorship and the air base Wietzenbruch, and maintained law later. It was the British who helped in 1990 by the directness of its policy, to establish the cornerstone for German unity."

The mayor mentioned the Battalion's posting to Afghanistan and his recent visit to London, to welcome the British successor unit for Celle, The Royal Fusiliers. During his visit to London, the mayor was moved, as a young Fusilier showed him bullet holes in the uniform he wore in Afghanistan - from bullets that would have killed him, had he not been wearing a safety vest. In his speech the mayor went on: "I am appalled that seven soldiers from the Fusiliers not have returned alive from Afganistan."

Photo © Bernd Francke, Photo © Bernd Francke, Photo © Bernd Francke,

The ceremony is a sign that British Soldiers are welcome visitors to Celle: "You are welcome our fellow citizens. Many personal relationships have emerged, and several soldiers have stayed in Celle after leaving the Army. For these reasons the City of Celle are awarding of the right of Freedom of the City's appreciation to the Royal Anglian's in expressing: "We hope the close friendship between the British soldiers and the city, continues for a long time as Celle continues to be home to British regiments. Today's honor supports this request."

Photo © Bernd Francke, Photo © Bernd Francke, Photo © Bernd Francke,

In his acceptance speech, General John McColl emphasized that the Freedom of the City Award for the Royal Anglian is a great honor. Since the end of World War 2 the Regiment has been stationed in Celle four times, with the longest period of 1987-1996: "It has pleased our soldiers very much to belong to the Celle citizenship. We have built many personal relationships during our time here. In fact, some members of the Royal Anglian regarded Celle as their home. During my twenty years of marriage, we lived in Celle longer than anywhere else."

Photo © Bernd Francke, Photo © Bernd Francke, Photo © Bernd Francke,

The Second Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment consists of soldiers from the former counties of Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Rutland. The 2nd Battalion are commonly referred to as "The Poachers", their regimental march is "The Lincolnshire Poacher" and their tradition is to have one soldier, dressed as the Poacher, at the front of their parades. Chris Headland (42), has served for as a soldier in the Royal Anglian for 24 years, has enjoyed taking the role of the Poacher recently. In October this year he leaves the Army and will be looking for new challenges.

The festivities ended with a civic reception, drinks and a buffet, in the New Town Hall. The musicians of the Royal Engineers stayed to entertain gusts during the civic reception, before returning to Rheindahlen.

The Poacher (Sgt Chris Headland) The Poacher CSM 'C' Coy Drum Major Barnes - Royal Engineers Freedom of Celle Freedom of Celle RSM Duke of Gloucester The Colours
'A' (Lincolnshire) Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers Colonel of the Regiment Colour Party Colours Dipped Colours Dipped in Royal Salute CSM Anti-Tank Pl. Freedom of Celle Freedom of Celle Freedom of Celle Freedom of Celle Freedom of Celle Freedom of Celle Freedom of Celle Duke of Gloucester French Gardens General McColl Grosse Plan, Celle Photographer Spotting Poachers on Parade Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers Right Dress The Poacher's Dog - Samson

Trenchard Barracks, Celle: 2012

With thanks to Michael Hagon for sharing his photographs with us