The Household Cavalry are to leave Windsor, with a formal parade to mark their departure to take place today, the 18th May, when they march though the town at 1430hr.
The move from Combermere Barracks to Bulford was announced in 2015 by the then Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, as part of the major reorganisation of the Army and which involved basing the majority of our armoured units near Salisbury Plain Training Area. The Welsh Guards will then move into the barracks at Windsor.
The 2015 announcement was not popular with local people and a petition was raised to try to make the MOD change its mind. However, much of the argument rested upon the fact that many of the soldiers were from local families and that the instability caused to them and local institutions that had developed strong links with the regiment(s) over the many decades (indeed centuries), was unfair.
It was an argument that would seem somewhat hollow to many other regiments and battalions that have been moved around every few years, changing their roles in the process. Indeed, many regiments, such as the 14th/20th Hussars, now part of the KRH, were never based near their Lancashire recruiting territory in the first place. In reality, with so many amalgamations having taken place in recent years, it is almost impossible for any of the old geographical associations to be maintained as they were previously.
The Household Cavalry will in fact be exercising their Freedom of Entry rights when they march though Windsor. The right was conferred upon military units as a special honour at a time when formed bodies of armed men were not permitted to enter city limits for fear that they might then try to take the place or simply go on the rampage. This was particularly true in the days when rival families fought for the throne of England and when local community loyalties might be split. The Freedom of Entry was therefore a mark of great faith in the fighting unit to which it was given, and typically meant that the troops in question were very supportive of, and well known to, the local people.
Today, the Freedom of Entry is held by a number of British regiments and battalions across towns in the UK, as well as ships crews and RAF units. It has also been used overseas, where former colonies and Commonwealth countries have adopted the ritual for their own forces in order to allow towns to show their especial appreciation of military units for all the same reasons that apply in the UK.