Your chance to welcome Dragoons

Elaine MaslinAt least 3,000 people are expected to descend on Dereham from surrounding towns and villages as well as Thetford and further afield for what will be biggest event in the town this year.Elaine Maslin

At least 3,000 people are expected to descend on Dereham to welcome home soldiers from the Swanton Morley-based Light Dragoons after their gruelling tour of Afghanistan.

About 200 troops are to march through the town for their home coming parade on Friday, December 4.

Dozens of police, council staff and soldiers will be on duty to marshal the crowds and a free park and ride bus service from Dereham's football ground to the town centre has been organised by Breckland Council.

It will run from Aldiss Park to the Market Place in Dereham between 10am and 1pm on the day of the parade.

Special parking arrangements are being made because part of the town's Cherry Tree car park will be being used by coaches to take children to the event. Other arrangements now made for the day include a lost children area situated by the St John Ambulance vehicle in front of the cinema.

A section outside the old library is being kept for ex-servicemen to be able to watch the parade march past.

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There will also be an area for people with disabilities outside Natwest Bank and the Friday market will move, just for that day, to Cowper Road car park.

Some 18 standards will line the route into church and 1,300 flags are to be given out to the nine bus loads of children attending from Watton, Swanton Morley, Attleborough and four schools from Dereham, who will walk in the parade.

A number of roads will be closed from 8am-12pm including Norwich Street - from its junction from Matsell Way and Station Road to its junction with Cowper Road; Market Place - from the War Memorial to its junction with Church Street; Church Street and Cowper Road.

HGV drivers are being urged to use Station Road between 8am and 12pm rather than heading towards the town centre and there will be warning notices put out.

Cones will be put out early in the morning on roads which will be closed and anyone parking in cordoned off areas could have their vehicles towed away and have to pay to get them back.

Wellington Road will be kept open to allow traffic to move around the town but will be shut for a few minutes from 10.50am to allow the troops to march down the road and into the Market Place.

The parade starts at 11am led by the Parachute Regiment Band and will go from near the Memorial Hall in Norwich Street, into Cowper Road and then Wellington Road and in to the Market Place before going down Church Street.

Medals will be presented to troops at 11.20am in Church Street outside the Phoenix Hotel before a service in the church at 11.30am followed by a reception for invited guests.

All Konect buses will drop off and pick up (until 1159) on London Road northbound (facing the High Street) just before the mini roundabout. Yellow no parking cones will be placed along London Road from Commercial Road to the High Street to allow the buses to stop and pick up passengers.

t First Bus arrangements for 4th December, Welcome Home Parade

Up to and including 7.35am, the First Bus X1 service will pick up passengers from the Market Place in Dereham as usual, on both Lowestoft and Peterborough routes. After this, and until 12.30pm, the X1 will not pick up from Dereham Market Place. Both Lowestoft and Peterborough services will pick up from Matsall Way and Station Road instead. The buses will leave at the same time they normally depart from the Market Place. Passengers are advised to arrive 5 minutes early, and to flag the bus down. Please call First Bus if you require further information: 0845 6020121.

t Following the Dereham parade the Dragoons will travel to the north of England where they predominantly recruit from for two freedom parades, one in Barnsley on December 7 and one in Newcastle on December 11.

Breckland chairman John Rogers said: 'It will be an honour for everyone to publicly thank the troops and show our appreciation for their courage, bravery and devotion while in Afghanistan.'

t Mr Rogers praised the 'We're Proud of You' supplement produced by the Dereham Times - and backed by Breckland Council - and said every penny would go to the Light Dragoons Trust. It is for sale at the Dereham Times and EDP offices in Dereham and Fakenham, and also at Swanton Morley Stores and Breckland council offices. Marshals will also be selling them to crowds at the parade. We are asking for a minimum donation of �1.50 per copy.

t Norwich Cathedral will host a special event on December 3, where bereaved family members of Dragoons killed in action on their tour in Afghanistan will receive the Elizabeth Cross.

t For information on the parade contact Lisa Green at Breckland Council on 01362 656330.