Freedom of Entry to the Town of Folkestone, U.K.

A woman wearing ornate robes, hat and chains of office walks among people in blue uniforms in a crowded street.
The Town Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Ann Berry, inspects members of the Freedom of the City parade with Master Warrant Officer Dipen Mistry, RCAF Public Duties Air Task Force Warrant Officer, on July 4, 2018. PHOTO: DND, Master Corporal William Boucher

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From Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs

The Royal Canadian Air Force 2018 Public Duties contingent paraded through the streets of Folkestone, United Kingdom—exercising their Freedom of Entry into the town—after Canadian Armed Forces members serving in the U.K. were granted Freedom of the City on July 4, 2018.

According to E.C. Russell in his book Customs and Traditions of the Canadian Armed Forces, “one of the most prized honours of a marching unit is the conferring upon the unit of the privilege and distinction of the freedom of the city—the honour for all time of marching through the city [or community] with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed.”

According to a statement from the town, “The title of ‘Freedom of Entry to the Town of Folkestone’ is the highest honour that a Town Council can confer and it is being presented to the Canadian Armed Forces serving within the United Kingdom, in recognition of their devoted military service to our Sovereign and Country and the continued links with Folkestone in the annual commemoration of the 305 Canadian soldiers buried at the Shorncliffe Military Cemetery.”

The contingent was led by Brigadier-General Lowell Thomas, the commander of the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff in London, U.K., and Canadian Armed Forces personnel from throughout Europe were present to observe the memorable occasion.

“The last time the Town Council awarded Freedom of Entry to the Town of Folkestone was in 2009 to the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Gurkha Rifles, when the people of Folkestone came out in force to celebrate the momentous occasion,” said the mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Ann Berry. “This is a fantastic opportunity to show our appreciation and support for past and present Canadian Forces that have served and continue to serve within the United Kingdom. I am sure many people in the community, if they were educated at primary schools in Folkestone, would have attended the annual flower laying service at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery which has taken place since 1919.”

On every Canada Day, Folkestone remembers

By Ruthanne Urquhart

For Canadians, November 11 each year is the day on which we pause and remember the men and women who have given their lives in the service of Canada – at home and around the world, in past and current conflicts. Likewise on November 11, the U.K. honours its sons and daughters who have died in service.

Folkestone, Kent, England, however, marks an additional day of remembrance—Canada Day.

For 99 years, the citizens of Folkestone and environs have held the Canadian Flower Service at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery. In a tradition dating to 1919, Folkestone children lay flowers on each one of the more than 300 Canadian soldiers’ graves, and wreaths are laid at the central memorial. This year’s ceremony was held on June 29, 2018.

During the First World War, the area was home to as many as 50,000 Canadian soldiers, and a stopping-off place for many more: recruits on their way to the war in mainland Europe and wounded soldiers evacuated to England for care.

Several Canadian military establishments, and the personnel who ran them, were located in the Shorncliffe area, including camps and a Machine Gun School that was served by Shorncliffe Military Hospital and Moore Barracks Military Hospital (later Nos. 9 and 11 Canadian General), and other Canadian hospitals.

The Canadian Army Medical Corps Training Depot was located in the area during almost the whole of the war.


RCAF guards Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in United Kingdom

RCAF Public Duties in the U.K.

Backgrounder: Freedom of the City

Scroll down to: Shorncliffe Military Cemetery

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Image gallery

  • Band members in blue uniforms march through crowded streets carrying their instruments.
  • A woman wearing ornate robes, hat and chains of office, and a man in a military uniform hold a framed certificate.
  • A woman wearing ornate robes, hat and chains of office walks among people in blue uniforms in a crowded street.
  • Men and women in blue uniforms and men in vintage tan uniforms stand at attention.
  • People in uniform march under a very large silver arch on a street beside the sea.
  • People in blue uniforms stand near wreaths.
  • A woman in a blue uniform places a small object on a headstone.
  • A person in a tan uniform salutes in a cemetery, while others stand with bowed heads.
  • Several people in blue uniforms stand among many headstones.
  • A large crowd of people with girls wearing white dresses and hats and holding flowers standing in the foreground.
  • Many people sit or stand in a hillside cemetery in a sepia-toned photograph.
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