A Stockport Something To Be Proud Of

10 Nov

Note: the photos are not in chronological order.  Click on them to enlarge.

Today, the 1st Batallion Mercian Regiment, based in Stockport, has returned from Afghanistan and has been awarded the freedom of Stockport (see article here).  The Hub and I collected some friends and went along to welcome them home.

The regiment took part in a short service at our famous 750 year old market place (so famous I forgot to mention it in my what’s good about Stockport post) before marching through the streets, past the town hall and into the armoury.  We arrived early and found a prime spot above the Chestergate taxi rank.  Crowds were respectable, and got bigger nearer the town hall.  Many people followed the regiment through the town.

There was a large police presence; I’m not sure whether it was for traffic or protests, but everything went off peacefully.  It was good to see many of the cops wearing poppies; shamefully, some forces banned them last year.

As the regiment passed us going up to St Petersgate, the band leader did an impressive swoop with his massive baton – which was unfortunate for the soldier just behind him, who would have had a very public sex change if his reactions hadn’t been sharpened by months fighting off the Taliban.

One soldier called out ‘Thank you!’ to the crowd as he passed, and the Hub shouted back, ‘It’s us who should be thanking you.’  My hands were red raw and my arms ached from all the clapping.  I haven’t seen a whole battalion since my brother passed out in the Seventies and I hadn’t realised how large it is, but I made sure to clap every man and woman who marched by.


The Hub noticed that many of the soldiers were as short or shorter than him, and wondered if it isn’t small man syndrome that makes them sign up.  A friend of ours is tiny; he was a para in the Falklands War.

Once the whole regiment had passed us we drove around to the Armoury to cheer them again.  They are so young, it’s frightening.  We saw one soldier in a wheelchair, propelling himself with his remaining leg.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I got a little choked up: even though we know these soldiers and others are out there in Afghanistan, it’s easy to switch off the news and forget them; and many people do.  I felt incredibly proud of each and every one, and if you are reading this and have a loved one in the military, please know that some of us are grateful and humbled by their dedication and bravery.

There were many Gurkhas in the regiment, wearing their distinctive Khukuri knives.  As they walked through Stockport after they had been allowed to fall out, most of them were still wearing them.  It is said that, once drawn, the Khukuri may not be sheathed again until it has drawn blood.  I believe Stockport youths have the same tradition about their knives on Saturday nights out.

We were amazed to see soldiers walking into McDonalds; I can’t say it’s the first place I’d go after months in Afghanistan.  Surely Army food can’t be that bad?


6 Responses to “A Stockport Something To Be Proud Of”

  1. slpmartin November 11, 2010 at 06:41 #

    Love the pictures…wish no one would have to go to Afghanistan or any place else for wars.


    • Tilly Bud November 11, 2010 at 09:05 #

      There would have to be a fundamental shift in human nature for that to happen, I’m afraid.


  2. vivinfrance November 11, 2010 at 11:11 #

    And that’s what I pray for, Tilly. A really impressive turnout. I’m glad you and others were there to welcome them.


  3. earlybird November 11, 2010 at 16:09 #

    I really enjoyed this post – particuarly the soldiers heading to McDonalds – but more particularly, I felt so sad/angry that these young men were sent there in the first place. I’m glad you clapped til your hands were hurting. They deserve it. Well done for going.


  4. Harry Nicholson November 12, 2010 at 00:42 #

    These are superb pictures, Tilly, I’ve spent some time looking at the faces of the young men. Rugged, yet so young.
    It was absorbing to have a tour of Stockport too.


    • Tilly Bud November 12, 2010 at 09:12 #

      Thanks Harry. He is an excellent photographer.


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