On Friday, 1 July the Countess of Wessex was in Paderborn, Germany to attend the farewell parade of 5th Battalion The Rifles, of which she is the Royal Colonel.
Formed in 2007 The Rifles consists of five regular and two territorial battalions and is an infantry regiment of the British Army. 5th Battalion The Rifles (formerly 1st Battalion The Light Infantry) are the army’s most deployable ‘heavy metal’ asset.
The parade launched the battalion’s departure and withdrawal from Paderborn which will take place over the summer with the final soldier leaving on 12 September. The 35 officers and 700 soldiers of 5th Battalion The Rifles have been stationed at Alanbrooke Barracks since 2002 and will be returning to the UK where they will move into their new home in Bulford, near Salisbury in Southern England. It is the first of five barracks in the area which the British will be leaving between now and 2020.
The parade included an address to the assembled soldiers and their families by the military chaplain, an inspection of the guard of honour by the Countess of Wessex and a presentation to the Rifles of the ribbon banner of the Federal Republic of Germany, the highest German award for an allied force.
As Friday also marked 100 years since the Battle of the Somme there was also a moment of silence to commemorate the bloodiest battle of World War One.
Following the ceremony, the Countess spent time with the soldiers and their families. She was particularly interested in hearing about how they were all feeling about the imminent move back to the UK as the Rifles departure is the end of an era for the town of Paderborn.
Before departing she signed Paderborn’s Golden Book, writing ‘With sadness in our hearts, but eternal gratitude to the people of Paderborn.’
The countess of Wessex was dressed in a bespoke sky blue midi dress by Emilia Wickstead for the event with a matching Jane Taylor hat which she first debuted at Ascot in 2013. She also wore a Regimental brooch.