Soldiers from Britain’s feared SAS are to abandon years of secrecy next year by marching through Birmingham before accepting the freedom of the city.
The elite troops rarely appear in public but the Territorial Army’s 23rd Special Air Service Regiment, based in Kingstanding, has agreed to take part in a spectacular parade on the way to a lavish reception hosted by the Lord Mayor.
The honour is the idea of Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Randal Brew, who wants the SAS to become the tenth regiment to receive the freedom of the city since the Second World War.
In traditional fashion, those taking part will be allowed to fix bayonets as they pass through the city centre accompanied by beating drums and the regiment’s battle colours. Senior city councillors gave the go-ahead for the ceremony.
Four members of the regiment were killed in June while on duty in Afghanistan.
Lance Corporal Richard Larkin, Corporal Robert Reeve, Corporal Paul Stout and Corporal Sarah Bryant died when the Land Rover they were travelling in was blown up by the Taliban in Helmund Province.
A plaque displayed at the headquarters in Kingstanding shows the names of 25 personnel who have lost their lives.
A council report notes: “Birmingham has become an integral part of army life, especially in recent times with all casualties from conflicts around the world being treated here and also all military chartered flights arriving and departing from Birmingham Airport.”
The 23rd Special Air Service Regiment (TA) was formed in the late 1950s in London, from MI9 and the Intelligence School 9 (TA). The regiment has been associated with the West Midlands since 1959 when the regimental headquarters moved from London to Thorpe Street, central Birmingham. In 1966 the headquarters moved to the TA Centre Kingstanding. The cost to the council of conferring freedom of the city is likely to be about £8,000.