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Paratroopers celebrate city status for Colchester

More than 200 years of military service has helped earn Colchester city status as part of Her Majesty The Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Currently home to 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat team (16 Air Asslt BCT), the British Army’s global response force, Colchester can trace its history as a garrison back to the Napoleonic Wars.

Colchester is one of eight new cities created to mark the Platinum Jubilee and has been honoured for its history as the capital of Roman Britain, its role as a garrison, and its rich cultural life.

“The granting of city status to Colchester is fantastic news. Colchester’s civilian and military communities have always enjoyed a hugely supportive relationship which has given countless generations of soldiers a launchpad to deploy on operations, safe in the knowledge that their families will be embraced by the local community." Lieutenant Colonel Ed Rankin,
Colchester Garrison Commander

Colchester Garrison Commander Lieutenant Colonel Ed Rankin said: “The granting of city status to Colchester is fantastic news. Colchester’s civilian and military communities have always enjoyed a hugely supportive relationship which has given countless generations of soldiers a launchpad to deploy on operations, safe in the knowledge that their families will be embraced by the local community."

“As we at Merville Barracks prepare for the firing of a Royal Salute to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on 2nd June and the 16 Air Asslt BCT and Colchester Garrison Show on 25 June, we look forward to joining together with local people to celebrate the granting of city status to Colchester.”

Colchester traces its history as a garrison town to around 1790 during the Napoleonic Wars, when temporary barracks were built to accommodate soldiers on their journey to Harwich to sail to the European battlefields. From the Crimean War in the 1850s, barracks were built and the town became a major training and staging area for soldiers through the First and Second World Wars.

In 2005, these red brick barracks were replaced with the modern Merville Barracks, which provides working space and accommodation for up to 3,000 personnel, with 800 families living in military housing. The garrison employs some 700 civil servants and contractors in Colchester.

16 Air Asslt BCT moved to Colchester in 2001 and has deployed on operations to Iraq and Afghanistan, most recently Operation Pitting, the evacuation of 15,000 British and Afghan people from Kabul in August 2020.

As well as 16 Air Asslt BCT, Colchester is home to 156 Provost Company Royal Military Police, British Army Band Colchester and the Military Corrective Training Centre. To mark the proud links between the town and its military 16 Air Asslt BCT, 156 Pro Coy RMP and MCTC have all been granted the Freedom of Colchester.

Colchester is also a Royal Saluting Station, with the airborne gunners of 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery preparing to fire a 42-gun salute in Castle Park on 2nd June to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.