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Freedom of Southwell is granted to RAF Reservists

By Josh Clarke

Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson and Flying Officer Godfree Browne
Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson and Flying Officer Godfree Browne

An RAF Reservist squadron is to be granted the Freedom of Southwell to mark its 90th anniversary.

The town council granted the honour to 504 Squadron (County of Nottingham) following an appeal by the town’s Royal British Legion.

“It seemed appropriate given the links 504 Squadron have to Southwell and it is important to recognise their value to both county and country,” said Mr Andy Gregory, the council chairman.

“Now we have formally approved to offer 504 Squadron the freedom of the town they will hopefully accept it and then organise a parade.

“Especially with it being their 90th anniversary this year, they are extremely busy and it will have to fit in with their current training programmes and be arranged when all the personnel can get together.”

If there was a parade, Mr Gregory said it would likely fall around the anniversary of the death of 504 Squadron pilot Godfree Browne, of Southwell, who was one of the first people to die in the second world war.

Flying Officer Browne, 34, died during a training flight on September 9, 1939, at Metheringham Airfield, Lincolnshire, days after the start of the war.

He is buried in the town’s cemetery.

'The least we can do to support what our Armed Forces did'

Another squadron link to Southwell is Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson, who was killed on tour in Afghanistan on April 13, 2008, while serving with the Royal Air Force Reserve.

Mr Thompson, 51, captained Southwell Rugby Club’s 3rds for three years, joint captained the club for four years and was a member for eight years.

He died when his Wolf Land Rover was blown up by a roadside bomb while on patrol at Kandahar Airfield.

Granting 504 Squadron the Freedom of Southwell would allow it to march through the town bearing arms, carrying banners and beating drums.

Eight years ago the council granted the same honour to the county infantry battalion, 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment, who had three operational tours to Afghanistan.

Mr Gregory said: “It is the least we can do to support what our Armed Forces did and continue to do for us on a daily basis.”


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