SHOPS and businesses have vowed to get behind the Royal Anglian soldiers when they march through Basildon town centre.

Basildon is braced for the historic day on Thursday, November 8 which will see crowds cheering and flag-waving patriotism as soldiers from the Royal Anglian regiment parade through the town. 

It will be the first time so many troops from the 1st Batallion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, will have marched through the borough.

Around 160 soldiers from the regiment, nicknamed The Vikings, will be marching from Toys’R’Us to Town Square for the homecoming parade, which is being held to celebrate the regiment becoming the first-ever recipients of the Freedom of the Borough.

Ian Clark, the manager of the Eastgate Shopping Centre, said: “Eastgate is honoured that the Anglian Regiment will be marching through Basildon. We regard this as a very important occasion for the town and the event is bound to bring many more people here.

"However, while this is an event that could benefit Basildon commercially, there is also a poignant side to the visit.

“Coming as it does during Eastgate's Poppy Appeal, the Regiment's appearance will serve as a timely reminder of the sacrifices made by our armed forces over many years to protect our nation.

“We therefore fully expect to see even more poppies being worn as a tribute to those who have given and continue to give their lives for others and would urge everyone in Basildon who is able to turn out on the day to do so."

The soldiers will start the march at 12.30pm and arrive in St Martin’s Square at 12.40pm.

Hans Wustefeld, the general manager of Basildon Town Centre Management Company, said: "This promises to be a wonderful event for Basildon and deserves the support of everyone who lives or works here.

"The Basildon Market shoppers that I have spoken to have all expressed their excitement. I am certain that Basildon will provide the warmest possible welcome for the Anglian Regiment, something that it does so well on occasions such as these".

Shopkeepers along the route are excited and have said it’s great news that the soldiers will be marching through the town.

Sophie Austin, 19, a shop assistant at Simply4Home in East Walk, Basildon said it would be great to have the soldiers in the town and hoped for a jubilant atmosphere.

She said: “It will be really good to get behind the troops and to see them in the town. I expect the shops to all be packed and hopefully it will be a good day for trade.

“The streets are probably going to be packed and depending how busy it is hopefully we will be able to pop out and watch the procession.”

Second World War hero Don Shepherd, 92, who lives in Basildon said it would be a great day to see the soldiers march through Basildon.

He added: “I will be there to support the boys and I hope to see the streets packed out getting behind them. We didn’t have big events like this in my day but its going to be a nice reminder of what these men are doing for us.”