Soldiers and veterans have praised a town for its ‘overwhelming support’ of a parade honouring the heroism of Britain’s armed forces.
Streets came to a standstill in Emsworth as hundreds of people packed into the town centre to watch the annual St George’s Day parade.
Loud cheers erupted as soldiers from 20 Battery (HQ) of 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, who are based on nearby Thorney Island, marched into High Street.
The men and women of 16 Regiment were followed closely by a bumper contingent of about 60 veterans from conflicts spanning the Second World War, Korea, Burma, Malaya and the Gulf.
Among them was D-Day veteran Arthur Bailey, of Hawthorne Crescent in Cosham. The 95-year-old former paratrooper, who was being pushed in his wheelchair, was among the thousands of troops to take part in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, landing on Gold Beach.
He said: "This is one of the great times of the year and I love coming to St George’s Day parade in Emsworth. I couldn’t be part of it last year because I wasn’t allowed. So it means so much for me to be here today. The support is wonderful - it’s as good as Portsmouth’s during Remembrance Sunday. It’s fantastic."
Forming up at The Lord Raglan pub, the procession made its way into High Street towards St Peter’s Square before looping to the right along Spring Gardens and into Kings Terrace before then heading back to the town centre.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Colton, the regiment’s commanding officer, praised the service of his men and women and paid tribute to the efforts of the veterans and their fallen comrades.
Councillor Peter Wade, mayor of Havant, also thanked those in attendance and paid tribute to the former organiser of the event, Councillor Rivka Cresswell, who died suddenly a few weeks ago.
Thoughts also turned to those killed during the Sri Lankan terror attack on Easter Sunday, with the Rev Andrew Sheard, of St James Church in Emsworth, offering a prayer for the victims and urging people to fight against evil.
Veterans and soldiers were then presented with the Emsworth Rose by children from Thorney Island Primary School to honour the heroism of the British troops who fought in the Korean War before the National Anthem was sung.
Major Chris Maher, commander of 20 Battery (HQ) of 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, was amazed at the support of Emsworth for his men and women.
He said: "Today gave me tingles. I’ve been to parades before where they aren’t well supported and then to come here and see the support the community gives us is just fantastic. It’s been a fantastic privilege to be here. We have got a phenomenal bunch of soldiers, men and women, on the island and to give them a chance to represent who they are and what they do in the local community that supports us so well was just a brilliant opportunity."