Melksham town centre came to a standstill on Saturday morning as the Melksham air cadets were given the honourary freedom of the town.

The town council decided to bestow the first ever such honour on 2385 (Melksham) Squadron Air Training Corps in its 50th year, in recognition of its service to the town and Melksham’s RAF past.

At 9.15am a parade of 252 cadets set off from the Cooper Tires car park on Bath Road, heading through the town centre to Church Street for a service at St Michael and All Angels Church. The cadets then paraded to the High Street where Wing Commander Vanessa Toth, Melksham mayor Cllr Rod Eaton, Lord Lieutenant Sarah Troughton and High Sheriff Laura Phillips took the salute before the bestowal ceremony.

Flight Lieutenant Darren Gerrish said: “It ran like clockwork and we had a good turnout from the public.

“The cadets all enjoyed it. They appreciated the significance of the whole thing. The church service was pitched very well for them, I think.”

After the ceremony the town council held a reception for the cadets, before the squadron held its annual dining-in night at Melksham Assembly Hall. On Friday night the RAF big band, the Squadronaires performed at the Assembly Hall to a near-capacity crowd.

Cllr Eaton said: “The air cadets make a tremendous contribution to the town as well as, of course, the youth of the town which is the main thing.

“They build character as well as being for people who are interested in carrying on in the armed services. They do a great deal.”

Flight Lieutenant Gerrish added: “I’d like to thank the council in particular, it helped so much with the organisation and it was exactly as planned.

“They were brilliant, not just the councillors, but town clerk Steve Gray and Lorraine McRandle.

“I’d also like to thank the Royal Air Force Association and the Lions Club for all their help.”