Gibbons grants PPCLI Freedom of the Town

LCol Errington presents himself at the Town door, signs papers with the Deputy Mayor, and leads her to inspect his troops.
– Lucie Roy Photos

by Lucie Roy

Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) has undertaken a commemorative program to maximize its interaction with Canadians across the country during their centennial year. Saturday’s Freedom of the City parade in Gibbons was one of those occasions. Freedom of the City is an honour granted to military units or formations, allowing them the privilege to march in a specific town or city with drums beating, colours uncased or flying, and bayonets fixed.

Coady Summerfield, 2IC B Coy 3 PPCLI, provided a history of the Freedom of the City. In his response he said the ceremony is a tradition that dates back to ancient Rome and has been observed to this day. “Armies were often forbidden from a city due to conflicting loyalties and the general instability that existed at that time,” Summerfield said. “The citizens of these towns (usually fortified) would deny access for their own protection. Exceptions, however, were made as signs of trust and allegiance, allowing the request military unit entry. Throughout the Medieval period the tradition continued, typically to protect the public rights of the town.”

The Freedom of the City was granted essentially for those troops who earned the trust of the people, usually by protecting them and by being a familiar presence.

The honour is symbolic today and usually granted to a unit with ties to the area and as a token of appreciation for dedicated service.

To reciprocate the gesture of Freedom of the City, the battalion presented a PPCLI print to the Deputy Mayor to hang at the Gibbons Town Office. The print is of a famous PPCLI scene: The Second Battle of Ypres (Frezenburg), by William Barnes Wollen. This battle is known within the Regiment as “the death of the originals.”

After the parade and ceremony, a reception was held at the Curling Club where Deputy Mayor Louise Bauder, Geoff Jones, Ambassador to the Town, and CAO Farrell O’Malley welcomed each member.

Guests included Edmonton MP Honourable Laurie Hawn, Redwater Mayor Mayor Mel Smith, Gibbons Mayor and Council, Retired Gibbons Councillor Geoff Jones and retired Mayor Bill Nimmo, and Gibbons Royal Canadian Legion President Brian Phelan.

Morinville RCMP Corporal Sheldon Robb challenges LCol John Errington, Commanding Officer(CO) 3rd Battalion, PPCLI, with the words “Who goes there?” at the start of Saturday’s Freedom of the City ceremony in Gibbons.

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