FOR the Sharpshooters it was “an immense honour” while for Bexley Council and its residents, it was “a sign of support for our armed forces past and present”.

It was the Freedom of the Borough, bestowed for only the third time in the borough’s history and given to the borough’s Territorial Army (TA) unit at last week’s council meeting.

Bexley has had a voluntary militia since 1900 and the Territorial Force, later renamed the TA, was formed in 1908.

The current 265 (Kent and County of London Yeomanry) Support Squadron (Sharpshooters) is based in Watling Street in Bexleyheath.

Proposing the Freedom of the Borough, Councillor NIgel Betts said it was only the third time in Bexley borough’s 45-year history the honour had been awarded.

Previous recipients were former Prime Minister and Old Bexley and Sidcup MP Edward Heath, and the 17th Depot Regiment Royal Artillery, now based in Kent.

There to hear confirmation of the award were Major Andrew Church and Captain Stephen Slaney.

Cllr Betts told them: “We have no bridges for you to herd your sheep over, but you do have the right to march through the streets of the borough on all ceremonial occasions with colours flying, bands playing and drums beating.

“And we look forward to the day when you can exercise that freedom.”

The proposal was seconded by Councillor James Hunt who said people should not underestimate the award.

He added: “ These are people who spend the week at work and go out at weekends to do their duty.”

Referring to their increasing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cllr Hunt said: “They may return seriously wounded, or not at all.”

On behalf of the minority Labour Group, Councillor John Eastaugh said TA members were not supermen and women.

He added: “They are nice, good people who are level-headed and reliable, and doing an extraordinary job.”

In a letter to Bexley, the squadron’s commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Tim Allen said the honour would “strengthen the bond between the squadron and the local community, which we value immensely”.

He said he would be informing squadron members currently in Afghanistan adding: “I know it will put a spring in their step”.

The Freedom of the Borough certificate will be presented to the squadron at the annual council reception in May.