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HMS Prince of Wales Freedom of the City Bristol

HMS Prince of Wales Freedom of the City Bristol
12 June 2023
Hundreds of servicemen and women marched through the heart of Bristol as the Royal Navy’s largest warship was granted the City’s highest honour.

Three hundred sailors and Royal Marines paraded through the city – the first opportunity to exercise the Freedom of Bristol which celebrates the aircraft carrier’s affiliation with the West Country powerhouse – with bayonets fixed, drums beating and Colours flying.

Carrying those Colours was 35-year-old Petty Officer Iliana Veneti, a Royal Naval Police Officer on board the Portsmouth-based warship.

“It was an absolute privilege and honour to fly the Colours through Bristol city centre for HMS Prince of Wales’ first Freedom of the City parade.

“As a petty officer in the Royal Navy Police, I don’t often get the opportunity to participate in ceremonial duties, so I welcomed the occasion to lead the parade through Bristol and represent my ship.”

Petty Officer Luke Witts, who choreographs the movements of F-35 jets and Wildcat, Chinook and Merlin helicopters – plus whichever other aircraft use the carrier’s sprawling flight deck – as an aircraft handler was thrilled to march through his home town.

“As a proud Bristolian, being part of the celebration and parading in Bristol, representing HMS Prince of Wales is a massive sense of achievement,” the 34-year-old said. “Marching through my home city is something I never thought I would do so the planning and organising has definitely been worth it in the end.”

Captain Richard Hewitt, Commanding Officer of HMS Prince of Wales, said watching his men and women on parade was “a huge honour and privilege. It further demonstrates the link between one of the Royal Navy’s strike carriers, and one of the UK’s iconic maritime cities.

“The welcome we received from the people of Bristol is a testament to the commitment and discipline demonstrated today from the sailors and would not have been so spectacular without the hard work from all those involved in organising the event.

“The affiliation we have with Bristol, through the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Mayor, and Bristol City Council, is testimony of our steadfast friendship for the next 50 years.”

Since first being awarded in 1888, the Freedom of the City has been bestowed on 66 individuals and military units - Bristol is also the first UK city to award the honour to a fifth-generation carrier.

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