Royal Navy to march ‘with fixed bayonets and colours flying’

Residents and visitors are encouraged to line the streets from 11.20am on Friday 11 March 2022 to support the Royal Navy as they exercise their rights under Freedom of the City to march through Portsmouth ‘with fixed bayonets and colours flying’.

Over 120 members of the Royal Navy, led by Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth, will march from Queen Street Gate, HMS Nelson to Guildhall Square. A short ceremony will take place in Guildhall Square conducted by the Royal Naval Chaplain and Chaplain Anthony Cane. The Lord Mayor, Leader of Portsmouth City Council and Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire will also be in attendance.

Freedom of the City of Portsmouth was originally awarded to the Portsmouth Command of the Royal Navy on 10 November 1964. However, over the last few decades the Royal Naval structure has changed so the council agreed to transfer the honorary grant to Portsmouth Naval Base and Portsmouth Ships.

The Freedom of the City was originally granted to ‘pay tribute to the glorious traditions of the Royal Navy over many centuries of gallant and distinguished service to our Sovereign and country and to acknowledge the great part which the Royal Navy plays and has for so long played in the life and the development of the city and further wishing to strengthen and foster the close bonds which exist between the city and the Royal Navy’.

Portsmouth City Council unanimously voted to approve the transfer of the honorary grant at an Extraordinary Full Council meeting on 15 February 2022, where they stated that the council wishes to continue to promote the essence of the original Freedom grant.

Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Gerald 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.

“I am very grateful that we had the support from all the parties across the council to transfer the grant of the Freedom of the City and look forward to the march where Portsmouth’s close bond with the Royal Navy will be officially marked.”

There are currently 13,000 people employed at Portsmouth Naval Base which contributes an estimated £450 million to Portsmouth economy. There are also 1200 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.

“At the start of 2022, now we have completed the first operational deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth, and as we approach the anniversary of the Falklands Campaign, there is no better time to celebrate this rich and meaningful relationship.

“To have achieved so much through the Covid Pandemic is testament to the strength of our collective success. For the significant number of Portsmouth people who work in support of the Royal Navy in the region, this Freedom Parade reflects on your amazing contribution. It is a relationship built on respect and loyalty stretching back centuries; long may it continue.”

The Freedom of the City march will leave from Nelson Gate on Queen Street at approximately 11.30am, head up Bishop Crispian Way to Edinburgh Road, down the bottom of Commercial Road and past Portsmouth and Southsea Station before parading on to Guildhall Square shortly before 12pm. There will be rolling road closures in place for the duration of the march.