Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

Rifles regiment granted freedom of Poole

The ceremony at the civic centre in Poole
The mayor presented a freedom scroll and a sword to Brig Toomey

Soldiers of the Rifles Regiment have been granted the freedom of Poole in Dorset.

The regiment was formed when the Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry merged with three others in 2007.

The new regiment, which is currently serving in Afghanistan, has its headquarters in Winchester, Hampshire.

The mayor of Poole, Councillor the Reverend Charles Meachin, granted the freedom at a special ceremony at the town's civic centre on Friday morning.

Death toll

Three Dorset soldiers serving with the regiment have lost their lives in Afghanistan in the past eight months.

Capt Mark Hale, 42, raised in Winton, Bournemouth, was killed in August 2009; Rifleman Phil Allen, 20, of Verwood, died three months later, and two weeks ago Rifleman Jonny Allott, 19, from Kinson in Bournemouth, died from his wounds following a roadside explosion.

From left to right: Captain Mark Hale, Rifleman Phil Allen and Rifleman Jonny Allott
Three Dorset soldiers serving with the Rifles have died since August

At Friday's ceremony, the mayor presented a freedom scroll and an inscribed commemorative sword to Brigadier Richard Toomey, deputy Colonel Commandant of the Rifles regiment.

Brig Toomey in return presented the mayor with a silver bugle on behalf of the regiment.

Mr Meachin said: "The Rifles regiment has a long-standing and close association with the Borough of Poole.

"I am delighted to be able to grant this much-deserved honour to the regiment on the behalf of the people of Poole in recognition of the men and women who serve this country with such bravery, commitment and dedication."

Poole first honoured the Dorset Regiment in 1946, before extending the award to the Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry in 1976.

The Rifles Regiment was formed from the Devon & Dorset Light Infantry; the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire Wiltshire Light Infantry; the Light Infantry and the Royal Green Jackets.

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