THOUSANDS of people will gather in Wallingford’s Market Place to mark the 75th anniversary of RAF Benson.

There are about 4,000 people behind the wire at RAF Benson with 1,800 personnel, civil servants, contractors and their families living in about 600 houses.

RAF personnel and a marching band will exercise the freedom of the town next Wednesday – a special privilege the town offers the base.

The Freedom of Wallingford Parade will cross Wallingford Bridge into Wallingford, and RAF personnel will then exercise the freedom in Market Place, with colours flying and bayonets fixed.

The parade will be accompanied by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force.

Following the parade, there will be an RAF display on the Kinecroft with static aircraft.

Wallingford mayor Jane Titchener said: “I’m very excited about the parade — it will be a fantastic day and I’m sure thousands of people will turn up.

“The freedom parade cements the strong links between the town and the base and I’m very proud that the RAF has chosen to exercise the freedom in this 75th anniversary year.

“The event has been timed so that families and schoolchildren can attend and I’m hoping lots of them come along to the parade and to the event afterwards on the Kinecroft.

“If the weather stays fine even better.”

RAF Benson is a frontline support helicopter base working within the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) and the 75th anniversary celebrations began in January.

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