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Bagpipes and bayonets fill Sidney streets for squadron’s birthday bash

The 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron turns 80 and is granted the Freedom of the Town

Bagpipes blared and soldiers marched with full colours flying through downtown Sidney on Thursday morning, filling the streets with music on the cloudy winter morning.

The Feb. 8 parade honoured the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron as it celebrated its 80th birthday, as well as the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Residents and workers in downtown offices poured out into the street as the procession went by on its way to the town hall, where the soldiers were met by Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil Smith for a ceremony that included a flypast by the squadron’s CH148 Cyclone helicopter.

Once in position, the town crier — who had led the parade from the Mary Winspear Centre through to the town hall — rang his bell and proclaimed that the squadron could “exercise its right to the Freedom of the Town of Sidney.”

The marchers were led by the Squadron band, which is made up of volunteers, veterans, and active military members, all decked out in kilts with the official Royal Canadian Air Force tartan.

Central Saanich resident Larry Dibnah, who had come to Sidney for the event said it “helps make us feel proud.”

“Fabulous,” Dibnah said, “it’s part of our history and our tradition.”

Along the route, there was heavy RCMP presence, who are on-site for any military parades in a show of force termed “lethal overwatch.”

READ MORE: 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron celebrates 80 years with Sidney parade