Sixteen years to the day that they were first granted the honour, the men and women of Britain’s flagship marched through the streets of Chester.
The Princess Royal watched on as hundreds of well-wishers turned out in inclement weather to watch HMS Albion exercise her right of the Freedom of the City.
With bayonets fixed, flags waving and drums beating, the sailors and Royal Marines pounded the rain-soaked streets of the historic city – the first time they’ve had the opportunity to visit in nearly eight years.
Princess Anne launched the ship in Barrow back in 2001 and has followed the assault ship’s deeds ever since.
She told the massed ranks of immaculately-turned-out military personnel: “As HMS Albion’s lady sponsor it is a very important association for me. Your programme remains busy, hence this third attempt at holding the freedom parade.
“I would like to add my thanks to City of Chester for this impressive occasion and to all of you on parade.
“The interest and support from the city of Chester is much appreciated. This is not something that ships do very often and let me congratulate you on how smart you look on parade. The Royal Navy is frequently out of sight and sadly that means also out of mind. These events are so important to re-engage people with the Royal Navy.”
Albion’s Commanding Officer Captain Peter Laughton told Cestrians that their “unstinting support and commitment” to his ship, which completed a nine-month deployment to the Far East last year.