Hundreds of people lined Oakham’s streets over the weekend as Rutlanders bade a fond farewell to one of their most recognisable faces – Sir Laurence Howard OBE.
An RAF parade honoured his retirement after 15 years of serving as the Queen’s personal representative in Rutland, with the RAF College band, members of 504 Squadron and 2248 (Rutland) Squadron Air Training Corps all marching through the town.
Sunday’s event had a real celebratory air to it, as it also marked both the foundation of the RAF and the 90th anniversary of the creation of 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron, which is based at RAF Wittering.
Sir Laurence said: “The parade was a wonderful occasion and I feel enormously privileged to have been given such a tremendous send off. It is something I shall remember for the rest of my life.
“The county and its people are great, and while I’m looking forward to my retirement, it is tinged with a touch of sadness.
“I will really miss meeting the many wonderful people who do such great unsung work in the community.
“The highlight of my period in office was undoubtedly meeting the Queen during her diamond jubilee year visit. I have had 15 years of great honour serving the county.”
Councillor Oliver Hemsley, leader of Rutland County Council, said: “Sunday’s parade was a fantastic tribute to Sir Laurence and a fitting way to celebrate his 15 years of exemplary service as Lord-Lieutenant of Rutland.
“The crowds that turned out to watch the parade and show their appreciation were a testament to the high regard in which Sir Laurence is held by all who know him.
“Sir Laurence’s dedication and hard work throughout his time as Lord-Lieutenant mark him out as a true servant of our county, for which he has rightly been recognised.
“We are indebted to Sir Laurence for everything he has done to represent Rutland and wish him all the very best in his retirement.”
Group captain Tony Keeling, station commander of RAF Wittering, where 504 Squadron is based, said: “Sir Laurence has been an exemplary ambassador for the squadron.
“He understands the business and people of 504 Squadron very well, assiduously supported ceremonial duties and worked hard to ensure the unit is never far from local government and the community.
“We are all profoundly grateful for his work.”
Former High Sheriff of Rutland Dr Sarah Furness is the county’s new Lord Lieutenant and officially began her duties yesterday.