The freedom of the Selby district has been awarded to 51 Squadron of the Royal Air Force and the Yorkshire Regiment at the final meeting of the local council.

It is only the second time the honour has been bestowed since Selby District Council was created in 1974.

Ye Fraternitie of Olde Selebians nominated both 51 Squadron and the British Army’s Yorkshire Regiment for the awards.

Bryan Wilcockson, former president of the of Olde Selebians, said: “This award has been made to the 51 Squadron in gratitude for their service during World War Two and their continued connection to the town of Selby, ongoing ceremonial role in the Armistice Day ceremony in Selby Cemetery and the Remembrance Day ceremony at Selby Abbey.

“As well as being based at RAF Snaith during World War Two, it turned a flight of its aircraft and crew over to make 578 Squadron which flew from RAF Burn.”

He added: “Many crew trained at RAF Riccall, a former RAF airfield located in the Selby district with 1658 Heavy Conversion Unit. Multiple Selby residents were members of this highly decorated unit, including recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross Ken Dean of Riccall, and several veterans are interred in the war graves section of Selby Cemetery, including one George Medal recipient.”

Squadron veterans and serving personnel return to Selby each year to support both the Armistice Day ceremony in Selby Cemetery and the Remembrance Day ceremony at Selby Abbey.

Mr Wilcockson said: “Veterans of the historic regiments making up the Yorkshire Regiment include past residents of the Selby district, with their names recorded on war memorials at Selby Abbey and throughout the district.”

The Olde Selebians and Yorkshire Regiment veterans went on to start the Armistice Day ceremony in Selby, with veterans and serving personnel also returning to the town annually for remembrance services.

Selby District Council chairman Cllr Ian Chilvers presented the Yorkshire Regiment’s Lt Col Richard Hill and 51 Squadron squadron leader Angela Hemlin with certificates.

Sqn Ldr Hemlin said: “It’s a huge honour and privilege to receive this – I’m a Selby girl myself.”

Lt Col Hill added: “The real strength of the army is our people and the real advantage we have in the Yorkshire regiment is that we recruit Yorkshire men and women.

“We look forward to continuing our long association with the people of Selby.”

Council leader Mark Crane said: “To bestow this honour upon a group of people who are so worthy and deserving of it is quite the right thing to do. We thank them for what they have done for this district and the country.”

From April 1, Selby District Council will be replaced by a single unitary authority covering all of North Yorkshire, North Yorkshire Council.