A unit of the British Army is to receive the freedom of Wigan for its “distinguished and eminent” service to borough and country.
The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment will have the honour bestowed at a special ceremony in April under plans due to be approved by Wigan councillors.
Honorary freedom is the highest honour a local authority can give to individuals or organisations. It would allow the regiment, known as The Lions of England, to wear their colours, draw swords and fix bayonets during ceremonial marches through the borough’s streets.
Once approved, it will be formally conferred at a special council meeting on April 15. A church service and march through Wigan would also take place on April 30.
Colonel of the regiment, Brigadier Frazer Lawrence said: “The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment has long and close associations with Wigan, which we cherish and look forward to continuing.
It is therefore a great honour and privilege for us to exercise our freedom by marching through the borough.
“It provides a wonderful opportunity to say thank you to the people of Wigan, for the enduring support they show to our soldiers, no matter where they are serving, be it here at home or overseas. We’re very much looking forward to what will be a memorable day.”
Wigan borough would be the 30th locality to honour the regiment, which has headquarters in Preston, and the third in Greater Manchester after Manchester, Tameside and Bolton. It is also recognised overseas in the South African city of Ladysmith having fought to break a siege in the then-town during the Second Boer War.
Over hundreds of years, forerunners of the regiment have fought in conflicts across the world, including both world wars and the war in Afghanistan.
The unit joins a distinguished roll call of individuals and organisations.
A Wigan Council report, which will be considered on December 4, reads: “The regiment recognises that the freedom is the highest honour that the council can bestow and feel that this would be a fitting tribute to the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and its successors.”
There have been 16 recipients of the freedom of Wigan borough, including businessman and former Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan, stalwart public figures such as one-time GM
High Sheriff Avril Fishwick and passenger transport authority chief Joe Clarke, and the authority’s longest serving leader, Lord Smith. The Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry, a regiment of the Territorial Army, also received the honour before it was disbanded five years ago.