Hundreds of Hartlepool residents turned out in force to honour the ‘brave and dedicated’ soldiers of 3rd Battalion The Rifles as they marched through the town this morning.
Young and old alike packed Victory Square - many waving Union Flags - as the band and bugles of the Rifles offered a musical soundtrack to the civic visit.
The locally-recruited regiment and its reservists exercised their right to parade as part of the Freedom of the Borough which the regiment was granted by Hartlepool Borough Council last September.
The regiment is following in the footsteps of its predecessor the Durham Light Infantry, which was given the same accolade in 1958.
Many riflemen serving today have their roots in the North-East, and Hartlepool in particular.
The Ceremonial Mayor of Hartlepool, Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher presented the Freedom of the Borough scroll and a silver salver to Lt General Evans.
It gives permission for The Rifles to exercise the Freedom of the Borough.
In return, the mayor accepted an engraved silver bugle from the regiment and led the crowd in giving three cheers for its soldiers and officers.
Coun Akers-Belcher said that he was ‘extremely proud’ to welcome the regiment to the town.
He said: “It is an extremely proud day for Hartlepool to welcome the 3rd Battalion The Rifles.
“The regiment is following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the the Durham Light Infantry, which received the accolade in 1958.
“The regiment is the largest infantry regiment in the British Army and has been involved in combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The bravery, skills and dedication of the soldiers in protecting lives both at home and abroad is an example to us all and can be seen from the public turn out today - and is greatly appreciated.”
Camron Gibson, 8, was flying the flag for the armed forces with pride alongside granddad Andy Shaw, 48, a former member of the Royal Artillery.
Camron said: “I’m very excited to be here. I would like to join the RAF when I am older and be a pilot.”
Lieutenant General Tim Evans, addressing the bumper crowd, said: “The support we have had has been tremendous and means a great deal.
“The regiment was formed in 2007 and has been a great success.
“We are very proud of our soldiers in the north east, and in particular Hartlepool.
“We greatly value your support and look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with the town.”