COUNCILLORS have unanimously agreed to bestow an Oxfordshire town's highest honour to a military base.

In a special ceremony to take place next year, Bicester Town Council will present HQ Bicester Garrison with the Freedom of Entry.

The presentation will take place in the lead up to the garrison’s 80th anniversary, which will be celebrated in 2022.

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Councillors approved the proposal at a full council meeting on Tuesday, September 1.

Freedom of Entry dates back to Roman times when soldiers were forced to camp outside city walls as weapons were not allowed in.

Freedom of entry would only be granted to troops who had gained the trust of local people.

Today the decree is purely ceremonial and is usually awarded to military units with ties to the area as a token of appreciation for their dedicated service.

Once presented, Freedom of Entry allows troops to march through the town with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, band playing and colours flying.

It is usual to mark the event with a church service followed by a parade in the town centre. However, as HQ Bicester Garrison is made up of a small number of staff in both military and civilian roles, a parade will not form part of the event.

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Bicester mayor Councillor Jason Slaymaker said: “I am delighted that the council has voted to present this prestigious title to HQ Bicester Garrison.

“It has been a major part of Bicester for almost 80 years, at its height thousands of people worked there in both military and civilian roles.

“We are at an early stage of preparations for the ceremony and a date has yet to be set. But I for one will be looking forward to joining the celebration.”

HQ Bicester Garrison, which encompassed The Royal Ordnance Corps (RAOC) and Central Ordnance Depot (COD), previously looked after the supply and maintenance of military weapons, munitions and equipment.

It set up the Bicester site in 1942 to supply the Armed Forces during the Second World War.

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Today HQ Bicester Garrison provides a co-ordination function for the wider Army Garrison, links into the Bicester community and stands ready to provide support to UK operations.

Last year, the Freedom of Entry was given to the Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Munitions and Search Training Regiment (DEMS), based at St George’s Barracks, and in 2018 to 1 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), based at St David’s Barracks.

Other regiments to receive recognition in the past were 2507 (Bicester) ATC and 23 Pioneer Regiment, which disbanded in 2014 as part of restructuring across the Armed forces.