THE Mercian Regiment has had the highest possible honour in Redditch bestowed on it in acknowledgement of the services of thousands of townsfolk prepared to lay down their lives for their country.

At a special meeting of the council on Monday night, the regiment was given the Freedom of the Borough, only the second time the town has bestowed this honour.

The notice of motion councillors voted in favour of stated: “The council admit the Mercian Regiment to be Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Redditch in recognition of the services of generations of of Redditch men and women, many who tragically lost their lives or were wounded in the cause of preserving our freedoms, while serving our county regiment – The Worcestershire Regiment, The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, or their successor body, The Mercian Regiment, and that the regiment’s name be enrolled on the Freeman’s Roll.”

The council also plans to hold an official celebration in the town when the regiment completes its current tour of duty overseas.

A small delegation from the army, led by (Retired) Major Robert Prophet, accepted the honour on behalf of the entire regiment. And accompanying them at the ceremony was the regiment’s mascot, Private Derby, a Swaledale Ram, assisted by one of his two official minders, a Ram Major.

The idea to grant Freedom of the Borough came from Redditch mayor, Councillor Jack Field, who said: “Having seen active service myself during the Second World War with the Royal Artillery, I know what a vital and rewarding role our armed forces perform.

“I was born and brought up in Redditch and have been proud to see our local regiment serve us in such a dignified way. This honour is to recognise their ongoing commitment to maintaining freedom for us all, and to mark the sacrifices made by local people serving through the Mercian Regiment and its predecessors in this county.”

Major Prophet said: “We were delighted and honoured to hear of the council's decision to grant Freedom of the Borough to the Mercian Regiment, culminating in this ceremony.

“It’s a great privilege to serve the people of this friendly and welcoming borough and we look forward to strengthening relationships next spring when we will be returning to march through the town centre.”

The only time this honour had been bestowed previously was on former Redditch mayor Walter Stranz.