HUNDREDS of people lined the streets yesterday to say a final farewell to one of the area’s proudest assets.
RAF Cottesmore officially became a satellite base of RAF Wittering yesterday after more than 70 years in the county and personnel from the base marched through Cottesmore and Oakham one final time before saying their goodbyes.
Applause erupted through Oakham as personnel marched from Church Street through High Street and Catmos Street to Rutland County Museum where they disbanded.
In Cottesmore village the military band played as servicemen and women paid a salute to Lord Lieutenant of Rutland Dr Laurence Howard as they marched from one end of the village to the other.
Some members of the public were moved to tears by the occasion.
Dr Howard said: “It’s a very moving occasion but it’s one where we can celebrate the wonderful work of RAF Cottesmore over 70 years.
“It’s an enormous privilege for me to be here today but my heart is with those who are moving on and who have served the local community and the county so well.”
The base opened in Cottesmore in 1938 and in the final years of the Second World War it was a United States Army Air Forces base.
The base’s links with the American Air Force, Rutland and the Cottesmore Hunt make up its emblem of a horseshoe, a star and a hunting horn.
Rutland MP Alan Duncan was at RAF Cottesmore yesterday morning where the marching troops were supported in force by their friends and family.
He said: “I was glad I was able to make it today. It was a very poignant moment. Over seven decades of service to the county were completed with the flag coming down.
“The community link with the RAF has been so strong it is a pity to see it end.
“I think the enthusiasm of some of the young people on the base who were waving the Union Jack was very poignant today.
“It’s typical of Rutlanders that they turn out in force at moments like this.”
Children from Cottesmore St Nicholas Primary School and Southfield Primary School in Oakham turned out to show their support and be involved in an event that will go down in local history.
Claire Whitmore, who is a class teacher at Cottesmore St Nicholas Primary School, said: “The whole school is out to support the march.
“They have said it was awesome and they didn’t expect it to be like this at all. It was amazing.
“We try to support everything like this in the village.”
Also among the faces crowding the streets was Rutland County Council leader Roger Begy (Con).
He said: “It is a day that many will remember for a long time for the way that the service personnel have handled themselves in these very difficult times.
“We must also remember the good times and especially today as we celebrate the history that is RAF Cottesmore.”
Following the marches there was presentation at Rutland County Museum in Catmos Street, Oakham, and a chance to reflect on the day.
Chairman of Rutland County Council Edward Baines (Con) said: “It has been an emotional day.
“It’s been rather like a funeral, because we have mourned a loss but also have been celebrating a life well lived.
“It seems like Rutland has lost a little brother or sister.
“Because we are both quite small communities, there has always been a more personal attachment.”