MANCHESTER : Historic connections renewed long into the future

Metrolink’s long and proud journey with the Lancashire Fusiliers was set on a new path this weekend with a special tram naming ceremony.

In a celebratory event led by Coronation Street star Jenny McAlpine, the Mayor of Bury and members of the Lancashire Headquarters, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the Fusilier Association and Transport for Greater Manchester Committee all welcomed the new ‘Lancashire Fusilier’ tram into service.

The Fusilier Corps of Drums entertained assembled guests and officials, including cadets and the family of late Fusilier David Collins.

The formal ceremony saw tram 3020, one of the new generation M5000 trams, replace the original ‘Lancashire Fusilier’ tram (1020), which was retired from service last year.

A special plaque was unveiled by Jennie McAlpine, Colonel Mike Glover, Regimental Secretary (Lancashire) for the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and Commandant Greater Manchester Army Cadet Force, Cllr Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, and Cllr Joan Grimshaw, Mayor of Bury.

For each of the past five years, Metrolink has launched a special “Poppy tram” on to the network to mark its support for the British Legion’s annual fundraising appeal. Tram 3020 will now perform this duty in the future.

Cllr Fender said: “The Lancashire Fusiliers have a very proud history and we are delighted to have honoured that by continuing a long-standing tradition in naming one of our new trams after the regiment.

“This ceremony has revitalised the enduring links between the Fusiliers and Metrolink, and will see us continue to walk shoulder to shoulder, long into the future.”

Colonel Glover said: “This is not just a matter of the past but also about recognising the contribution of Fusiliers up to the present day and the Fusiliers currently serving in Afghanistan are proud to see their local heritage commemorated in this way.”

The Mayor of Bury, Cllr Joan Grimshaw, said: “The Fusiliers have a special place in the hearts of all Bury people, and have had a unique relationship with the town for generations.

“To this day, in fact, the Regiment is the only organisation to be granted Freedom of the Borough. We are all delighted that these close links have been commemorated at this naming ceremony.”

The Lancashire Fusiliers were formed in the 18th Century and originally designated the 20th Foot they moved to a depot in Bury in 1873 and were awarded the title Lancashire Fusiliers in 1881. In 1968 they amalgamated with three other English Fusilier regiments to form The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

The Lancashire Fusiliers played a part in all the major campaigns of the 19th and 20th Centuries. In the First World War, the Lancashire Fusiliers won more Victoria Crosses than any other infantry regiment in the British Army but in so doing lost 13, 642 dead.

Today the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers maintains the traditions the Lancashire Fusiliers and Fusiliers from Lancashire continue to serve around the world. The 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is currently deployed in Afghanistan on a six months operational tour.

The TfGM Committee pledged its continued support for the Lancashire Fusiliers in October last year by committing to name tram 3020, one of the new M5000 trams, after the historic regiment.

That commitment was made in light of the original ‘Lancashire Fusilier’ tram, vehicle 1020, being retired as part of the project to replace all the older Metrolink trams with brand new vehicles by 2014.

Coronation Street star Jennie McAlpine provided a link back to the only other M5000 tram to bear a plaque: in 2010, a plaque was installed on one of the new trams in celebration of Coronation Street’s 50th anniversary. Metrolink trams have now featured on the opening credits to the popular TV soap for more than 10 years.