Crowds lined the streets of Melton yesterday to witness a historic first as HMS Quorn exercised its freedom of entry to the borough by marching through the town centre.
It was the first time the ship’s company had exercised its right to march through Melton ‘with bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying’ since the minesweeper was awarded freedom of the borough in 2006.
Dignitaries gathered around the car park outside Melton Council’s Parkside offices where the 43-strong ship’s company was inspected before the parade marched off, to the sound of drumming and music, along Burton Street, up to the Market Place and along Nottingham Street before marching back to Parkside along the same route.
Also in the parade were local sea and air cadets.
Speaking before the parade set off, Mayor of Melton David Wright said: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome the Captain, Lieutenant Commander Conor O’Neill, and the ship’s company of HMS Quorn back to Melton to exercise their right of passage through the borough for the first time .
“The borough is honoured to be associated with HMS Quorn and support Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. The ship has been associated with Melton Council since it was launched in 1989. Due to the ship’s minesweeping capabilities it has saved British lives both here and abroad.
“For a ship stationed so far away to be affiliated with a borough like Melton enables people from our land-locked area to learn about and support our Royal Naval activities. The shared desire to connect with each other has created a strong relationship between the council and the ship.”
One Melton woman who was among the crowds to see the parade said: “It’s nice to see. It makes you feel proud to be a Meltonian.”
Another said: “I was very impressed. They all looked very smart and it was nice to see the youngsters being encouraged to do it as well.”
The ship, which has been linked with the borough for over 20 years, takes its name from the Quorn Hunt as it is a hunt-class minesweeper.
Lt Cdr O’Neill said the ship’s company was honoured to be able to exercise its freedom of entry to the Melton borough, saying it ‘affirmed HMS Quorn’s links with Melton and the region that were rekindled in 1989’ when a party from the ship made its first visit to affiliates in Melton.
After the parade he said: “It was great to see so many people from Melton who turned out. It’s been a fantastic day and we’ve really enjoyed it.”
Former Melton Mayor Ron Marks played a key role in the awarding of the freedom of the borough to HMS Quorn in 2006. Mr Marks, who was mayor at the time, said: “I feel very proud. It’s giving HMS Quorn some recognition that they rightly deserve. I had to fight to get the ship awarded freedom of the borough at the time but I thought it was a worthwhile and beneficial thing to do.”