Hednesford is a town on the edge of Cannock Chase with a history steeped in mining and industry, and it's the town's mining heritage, essentially the lifeblood of the community for more than a century, that immediately captures the visitor's attention. In recent years a giant miner's lamp has been erected at the centre of the town as a tribute to this legacy, and the names of the local collieries can be seen embedded in the pavement.
The most prominent building in the town is Anglesey Lodge, built in 1831 by Edmund Peel of Fazeley and originally used as stabling facilities for his many racehorses, as well as doubling as his summer residence, and Anglesey Lodge was the perfect backdrop to a ceremony held on Saturday 13th October to confer on the Hednesford Branch of the Staffordshire Regimental Association the Freedom of the Town, the first regimental association, anywhere, to be granted the honour.
The Association was awarded the honour by the town council to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and was in recognition of its exceptional contributions to the local community. Hundreds of people had gathered to witness the unveiling of a plaque, and many more had taken up vantage points to watch and applaud members of the Association as they marched with pride along Market Street.
The march was led by a brass band, beautifully turned out in scarlet tunics that formulating images that Hednesford folk and those in other towns throughout the Black Country must have borne witness to in years gone by, a spectacular sight as they climbed the street incline towards the town centre.
They were followed by Staffordshire Regimental Association standard bearers and then the ranks of the Staffordshire Regiment veterans, smartly turned out and as professional as ever.
Military precision is something taken for granted within the services, but in Hednesford on this very proud day for the town, all those in attendance witnessed the final manoeuvre made by the parade as it came to a halt at precisely 12 noon. A short service was led by the vicar of Hednesford, the Rev.
Paul Kelly from St Peter's Church, hymns were sung with musical accompaniment from the military brass band, and after words of praise from council leader George Adamson and words of thanks and humility from the president of the Hednesford branch of the Staffordshire Regimental Association, John Pyke, the unveiling of the plaque was duly completed.
With news from the political arena that the name of the Staffordshire Regiment (currently merged with, and under the banner of, the Mercians) will soon be erased completely from the Army ranks due to defence cuts, it was time for everyone who attended to reflect on the past, a Staffordshire regimental history that spans more than three hundred years, and a regiment within the British Army that has for so long played its part in the defence of this country, especially through the two world wars. It was also the right moment to recall the words of the Ode of Remembrance by Laurence Binyon, for all those in the Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice to make our world a safer place to live:
"They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted.
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."