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B (North Irish Horse) Army reserve squadron receive freedom of Mid and East Antrim

By Rebecca Black

Newly formed council confers its first ever Freedom of the Borough on the B (North Irish Horse) Squadron of The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry

Armed Forces Minister for Reserves, Julian Brazier MP was one of the guests that watched yesterday as the reserve squadron with close historical links to the area was honoured.

B (North Irish Horse) Squadron of the Army’s newest regiment - the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry - received the honour in a civic ceremony in Carrickfergus and then exercised its Freedom with a military parade where the salute was taken by HM Lord Lieutenant Mrs Joan Christie and hosted by Mid and East Antrim Mayor Billy Ashe.

Part of the parade route took the soldiers past a renovated Second World War Church Tank - designed and manufactured in Northern Ireland by Harland and Wolffe Shipyard. The North Irish Horse was issued with Churchill Tanks for its operations in North Africa and Italy.

Major Mark Gannon, Officer Commanding B(North Irish Horse) Squadron The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry said the troopers are all proud of the honour.

"The history and contribution of the North Irish Horse throughout two wars and in the present age has been extraordinary," he said.

"As a statement of commitment in recent years, there have been no less than fifty five individual deployments since 2001 to roles in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This is from a Squadron that numbered no more than seventy personnel. Presently, the Squadron is expanding in both Belfast and Coleraine with an increased manning of over one hundred and growing further still.

"This is a symptom of the new Light Cavalry role and being part of the ever distinctive Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry Regiment."

Mr Ashe said the council wished to honoured those who had served.

"By conferring the Freedom of the Borough on the North Irish Horse Squadron we are honouring the service and dedication of the present Regiment and those that have served in the past," he said.

"The North Irish Horse were recognised for distinguished service during World War II and the current squadron has more recently completed deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans”

Accepting the highest accolade that can be conferred by a council, Regimental Honorary Colonel, Dr Melfort Campbell, said: “I am delighted that the Council is recognising the contribution of the North Irish Horse Squadron to the people of Mid and East Antrim and to Northern Ireland by conferring the prestigious Freedom of the Borough on them.”

“I know that this is an honour that is not bestowed lightly and even more so on this occasion as this is the first time that the Council has awarded the Freedom since it was established in April 2015.”

“For the Regiment, this is most certainly the highlight for us so far in what is also a relatively short history, having only being formed in October 2014, and serves to further confirm our deep roots within Northern Ireland,” he said.

Councillors, members of the military and invited guests gathered in Carrickfergus Town Hall yesterday for a special council ceremony.

During the ceremony the Mr Ashe, formally proposed the honour which was seconded by the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Timothy Gaston, before being given approval by the Elected Members of the Council. Colonel Dr Melfort Campbell then accepted it on behalf of B (North Irish Horse) Squadron. 

Crowds of onlookers lined the route along the Marine Highway and were treated to an impressive spectacle as the parade, led by the band of the Royal Irish Regiment, marched past a number of iconic landmarks including Carrickfergus Castle and the Churchill tank.

The North Irish Horse was established following the Boer War. It has since had a long and distinguished history of service.  During World War II it was equipped with Churchill Tanks. These tanks were designed and produced by Harland and Wolff, who had one of their factories on the Woodburn Road, Carrickfergus. A restored tank from that era is now on permanent display at the town’s Marine Gardens.

The North Irish Horse has a distinguished record of service that continues today as B (North Irish Horse) Squadron of The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry which is the newest combat regiment in the Army Reserve, formed in October 2014.

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