Freedom of the City - Berberton

Barberton, the Daisy town, was named after Henry Barber in 1884, 24 July by the Gold Commissioner David Walson, after Barber and his cousin Fred discovered gold in the area. The mining of gold in South Africa began in Barberton, where Tom McLachlan found the first traces of alluvial gold in 1874. Since then, gold fields flourished as fortune seekers flocked to the area in search of gold. The little town has a tremendous history both in industrial and military events.

Men of the Volunteer Service Company, Hampshire Regiment, pose for a photograph near Barberton. In the background is a blockhouse of an early design. Sadly, some of the men pictured above were killed in the accident. (Photo: The Graphic, January to June 1902)


Freedom of the City is an ancient honour granted to martial organizations, allowing them the privilege to march into the city "with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed". This honour dates back to ancient Rome which regarded the "pomerium", the boundary of the city, as sacred. Promagistrates and generals were forbidden from entering it, and resigned their imperium immediately upon crossing it.

An exception was made for victory celebrations (called triumphs), during which the victorious general would be permitted to enter for one day only. Under the Republic, soldiers also lost their status when entering, becoming citizens: thus soldiers at their general's triumph wore civilian dress. Weapons were also banned inside the pomerium for religious and traditional reasons. The awarding of the Freedom is often accompanied by a celebratory parade through the city.

Similar laws were passed by other European cities throughout the medieval era, to protect public security and civic rights, even against their own king's troops. As a result, soldiers would be forced to camp outside the walls of the city during the winter months. The Freedom of the City was an honour granted only to troops which had earned the trust of the local populace, either through some valiant action or simply by being a familiar presence. In the modern era of today, martial freedom of the city is an entirely ceremonial honour, usually bestowed upon a unit with historic ties to the area, as a token of appreciation for their long and dedicated service.

On 27 August 2016 was the first time since the Freedom of the Town has been bestowed upon the Witwatersrand Rifles, the Transvaal Scottish Regiment, the SA Irish regiment and Regiment Botha that we have the honor and privilege to have all four of the units present at this spectacular event. After the parade the annual “Remembrance Parade” that took place at Barberton’s Garden of Remembrance featuring a sunset parade format. These prestigious events were established to commemorate the “Freedom of the Town” that was officially granted to the Witwatersrand Rifles, the Transvaal Scottish Regiment, the SA Irish Regiment and Regiment Botha throughout the years by the Town Council of Barberton. The Regiments mentioned above were all based in Barberton at one time or another during WW2, and they maintain their link with the town in this way.

Barberton is the only town in the Lowveld where this happens, and it only happens once a year. In his opening address by the Mayor Sibusiso Mathonsi expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the interest to those involved within the Regiments on which the freedom of town of Barberton was bestowed. He further mentioned that without the loyal support to the planned events that involve the community of Barberton would not have had the same stature or eminence. He continued to say; As the future of our country, the young gentlemen and woman have to use the education and military training that you received to take up positions of influence. What is needed is the inculcation of universal values – the values of respect, tolerance, human dignity, truth, justice and an understanding the meaning of human brotherhood.

These values can only be learnt in the informal education that takes place in the home, school, military units and societies where the focus is not on wealth and power. It is also through the pursuit of sacrificial love of listening, helping, encouragement and giving that we will be able to be peace-makers. If we do not endeavour to work on these values then the men and women who went before us lived and died in vain and the future will be a depressing replay of what has gone before. The mayor recapped the parade and counselled participants and onlookers who attended the parade that everybody are an asset to our country, the SANDF and the SA Army. He ended his address and said that everybody should be proud of the excellent manner in which the parade was conducted.

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