Royal Navy personnel celebrate Freedom of Portsmouth

Personnel from Portsmouth Naval Base paraded through the city, exercising their right to do so ‘with fixed bayonets and colours flying’ as they celebrated the Freedom of the City.

Despite an association between the city and Navy going back well over 500 years – long before the name Royal was added – the Senior Service has only enjoyed Portsmouth’s highest honour since the mid-1960s… and has rarely exercised the privilege.

Hardy residents braved the rain to line the streets and cheer sailors representing Portsmouth ships, HMS Nelson personnel, the Royal Marines School of Music, and reservists from HMS King Alfred.

The Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth led the 150-strong parade as personnel marched from HMS Nelson Gate in Queen’s Street to Guildhall Square.

Sub Lieutenant Hannah Jones, 27, carried the silver casket containing the precious Freedom scroll which followed the Colour Party.

Once formed up into platoons in the Guildhall Square, the chimes of the city’s bells marked the opening of the Guildhall’s bronze doors and the city’s dignitaries moved onto the steps, along with the Naval Base Commander, Commodore JJ Bailey and Leader of the Council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson to receive the salute from the Officer of the Guard and inspect the platoons.  Commodore Mel Robinson, Commander of the Maritime Reserves inspected the Naval Reservists on the Parade.

Councillor Vernon-Jackson said: "We are a proud and historic maritime city, and the Royal Navy is at our heart. The naval base, where the first dry dock in the world was built in 1495, generates thousands of jobs and gives a significant economic boost to the region."

There are currently 13,000 people employed at Portsmouth Naval Base which contributes an estimated £450 million to Portsmouth economy. There are also 1,200 companies that supply the base, many of them local businesses.  

Naval Base Commander, Commodore JJ Bailey, said: “It is a huge and significant honour for the Royal Navy to be able to march through Portsmouth 'with fixed bayonets and colours flying'. A long and rich tradition exists of cooperation and symbiosis between the Royal Navy and the people of Portsmouth; indeed, many of the sailors based in HM Naval Base Portsmouth call the city and surrounding area home."

It is a huge and significant honour for the Royal Navy to be able to march through Portsmouth.

Naval Base Commander, Commodore JJ Bailey