IT was a moment of great pride for a town and the Royal Navy.
More than 200 sailors marched through the streets of Fareham in a breathtaking display of pomp and ceremony.
HMS Collingwood was the first institution to be awarded freedom of the town in 1974 and, nearly 40 years on, its 12th Freedom March did not disappoint the hundreds of people who lined the streets on Saturday.
Glorious music from The Royal Marines Band, Portsmouth, created a patriotic atmosphere as row upon row of officers and ratings marched with colours flying, drums beating and bayonets fixed.
The Rev Mike Hills, the chaplain at HMS Collingwood, told the crowds: ‘This is a good day for the Royal Navy and also a good day for the people of Fareham in equal measure.
‘The men and women from HMS Collingwood represent a bit of a purple fruit cake, in the sense there’s a bit of everything in it.
‘It’s like the whole of British society in microcosm.
‘HMS Collingwood is a place of training for 25 per cent of the Royal Navy.’
Commodore Tim Lowe said: ‘This is the highest honour that a city, borough or town can bestow on the Royal Navy or one of her navy ships.
‘We are very proud to be here this morning.
‘We are not an isolated organisation. We are an integral part of the community.
‘I very much hope you feel we contribute to that sense of community.
‘It’s an association lasting 40 years and I very much hope it lasts much longer.’
It was also a day of personal triumphs for four people at opposite ends of the spectrum – two warrant officers who have served in the Royal Navy for 30 years and two young sea cadets who dream of one day joining the forces.
WO Nigel Buckley and WO Rosie Dodd, both aged 48, were jubilant as they received Long Service and Good Conduct Clasps, while Georgina Thurgood and Joshua Latus, both 11 and with Warsash Sea Cadets, were presented with Commodores’ Broad Pennant awards after showing exceptional commitment.
WO Dodd, who is also a Scout leader in Gosport, said: ‘I am extremely proud.
‘I think it was the whole ambiance of it, seeing everyone from Collingwood, the commanding officer and the mayor. It was just fantastic.’
Georgina said: ‘It was scary but I am really glad I have done it.’
Within an hour the streets were back to normal again, but people said the march was a great spectacle worth waiting for.
Margaret Haile, 74, from Titchfield Common, whose son Tony Haile is serving in the Royal Navy in Saudi Arabia, said: ‘Fareham can be very proud of what they have done and long may it last.’