Navy reservists to march through Portsmouth for first time

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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NAVAL reservists from Portsmouth will exercise their right to march through the city for the first time.

Around 200 part-time sailors from HMS King Alfred will parade to Guildhall Square on Saturday, July 9.

It is the first time the unit has exercised its right to march in Portsmouth since it was awarded the Freedom of the City by Portsmouth City Council in 2003.

King Alfred is Portsmouth’s naval equivalent to the Territorial Army.

It has dozens of ordinary people deployed in military operations all over the world, including Afghanistan.

The Whale Island-based unit can often be seen at Remembrance Day parades but never before have they gone it alone.

King Alfred’s commanding officer, Commander Kevin Robertson, said: ‘It’s a real privilege to be able to march through our home city.

‘It’s a major event for us, a real honour. There honestly can be no better way to honour the links we have with the city of Portsmouth.’

The march comes after a recent visit from Prince Michael of Kent, who presented service medals to some of the reservists.

Addressing the sailors, the Prince said: ‘King Alfred has very close links to the city of Portsmouth and I’m sure your forthcoming freedom of the city parade in early July will be a great success.’

Lieutenant Alan Bradley, 46, of Clanfield, who serves as a communications specialist with the unit, said: ‘It’s going to be a great occasion. I’m very proud to be in HMS King Alfred and July 9 will be a great opportunity to march in my home town.’

The sailors will begin their march from Arundel Street in the city centre at 11.20am and march down Commercial Road to Guildhall Square, where they will arrive at 11.30am. A 30-minute service will then be held in the square before sailors are dismissed at noon.

Leader of Portsmouth City Council Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson urged as many people as possible to go and support the reservists. He said: ‘It will be a great spectacle. Yet again it demonstrates the close bond between the city and the navy.

‘We had a great parade to say goodbye to the Ark Royal and we have great affection for the navy here in Portsmouth.

‘I hope many people come out to see the sailors march.’