Thousands of people from across East Anglia descended upon Diss this afternoon to watch the only homecoming parade in Norfolk for the Royal Anglian Regiment’s 1st Battalion.
The sun was shining, the town was decked with bunting, and Mere Street, St Nicholas Street, Market Hill and Market Place were lined with people cheering, clapping, waving flags and showing their support for the troops.
The parade started at the bottom of Mere Street at 12.30pm, and ended at the top end of the town centre shortly after 1pm.
Security was extremely tight, with stewards and police dotted about the town, and road closures in place in the centre of Diss.
But the overarching memory will be the sight of people of all ages flocking to Diss and making a raucous but appreciative noise on one of the town’s most memorable days in modern history.
Before the parade, the battalion, nicknamed The Vikings, were given the ‘freedom of the town’ honour.
Detailed on a parchment scroll bearing Diss Town Council’s seal, the honour is “a token of remembrance and respect to all men and women of the area who have served or are serving in Her Majesty’s Forces”.
At the start of the parade, the 115 troops and 35 accompanying marching band members stood near to an empty shop on the corner of Mere Street and Victoria Road, the window of which bore more than 100 messages and posters of support made by beholden residents and local schoolchildren.
There was also a monument unveiled in honour of The Vikings - back from their latest six-month deployment in Afghanistan - outside the Co-operative store in Mere Street.
The message on it reads: “To commemorate the awarding of the Freedom of Diss to the Royal Anglian Regiment in the Diamond Jubilee year of HM Queen Elizabeth II.”
A civic reception is now being held at Diss Corn Hall for 350 guests, including the troops and band members.
Honoured guests include the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson JP, high sheriff of Norfolk, Henry Cator, colonel of the regiment, PD James, and Diss mayor, Graham Minshull.
Other people invited include representatives from the Royal Anglian Regiment Association, Royal British Legion, Diss Air Cadets, regional councils, and former and current commanding officers of the battalion.
Shortly after the conclusion of the parade, a post on the social networking website Twitter by Norfolk Police said: ‘Norfolk Police thank the public for their co-operation during the Diss parade. All went well, crowds starting to disperse, traffic delays possible.’
For more on the parade, including photos and interviews, see this Friday’s Diss Express.