City celebrates link with Royal Engineers

Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley, receives the salute on Market Place. (S)
Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley, receives the salute on Market Place. (S)

The strong links lasting 65 years between Ripon and the Corps of Royal Engineers have been celebrated during the city’s annual Engineers Weekend.

On Saturday, members of 21 Engineer Regiment, based at Claro Barracks, were on the market square manning static displays as well as a demonstration of the ABLE bridge-launching vehicle.

There was also a dive tank, a combat engineer stand and a construction/artisan trade stand.

On Sunday, the regiment exercised its Freedom of the City – granted to the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1949 – when the 21 Engineers marched through the city following a service at Ripon Cathedral where Mayor of Ripon Coun Mick Stanley was installed for his second consecutive term in office.

The celebrations have been praised in the House of Commons by Ripon MP Julian Smith, who also asked for an update on the plans to close Claro Barracks and relocate 21 Engineers to Catterick Garrison in 2017.

Urging the Ministry of Defence to explore options that would keep 21 Engineers based in the city further into the future, Mr Smith said: “On Saturday, the Royal Engineers celebrated their Freedom of the City of Ripon with the most incredible display of kit and personnel, and the corps band played brilliantly at the beating of the retreat.

“If there is any opportunity to keep the Royal Engineers in Ripon for a minute longer, for half a year longer or for decades longer, we will take it. May I urge ministers to keep thinking of Ripon as they look at the rebasing strategy?”

In response, Dr Andrew Murrison, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, said: “I plan to visit Ripon shortly, and I look forward to that very much. I would like to be able to give him some comfort on his question but the Army basing plan is a highly credible document that will right-size the Army for the future and so I want to manage his expectations.”

At the special lunch following the Mayor Making ceremony in Ripon last week, it was mooted that 21 Engineers may stay in Ripon beyond 2017 – possibly up to 2022.

Speaking to the Ripon Gazette yesterday, an MOD spokesman said: “The Army Basing Plan confirmed the closure of Claro Barracks, Ripon. It is anticipated that there will be no enduring defence use for Claro Barracks after 21 Engineer Regiment Royal Engineers move out, not before 2017. We are unable to give further information on timescales at present.”