A soldier from Southport has travelled to South Africa with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment to receive the Freedom of Ladysmith.

Kingsman Paul Carapanagiotu, 25, was one of 22 soldiers from the infantry unit’s three battalions, which recruit from across the North West, to take part in the trip to the historic city.

Paul joined the Regiment in October 2010 and is now a soldier with its 2nd Battalion based at Weeton near Blackpool. He has served in Cyprus and more recently Kenya and is now preparing for a potential deployment to Afghanistan.

He said: “I volunteered to take part in the trip to South Africa as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a part of the world I might otherwise not see.”

The Freedom of Ladysmith was awarded in recognition of the sacrifice made by members of the Duke of Lancaster’s parent regiments during the defence and eventual relief of the town during the 1899 – 1902 Boer War.

While there the soldiers took part in the Freedom ceremony, parading with other military units from South Africa before the city’s Mayor Councillor M V Madlala and the Colonel of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Brigadier Mike Griffiths.

The trip also saw the party take in an extensive battlefield tour, walking many historic sites including the Spion Kop where the British lost 1,500 soldiers. They also went adventure training, which included abseiling and white water rafting, and helped with a community project by painting a school building.

But among the most demanding of the trip’s commitments was the Swartkop Challenge; an extreme sport where teams pull a 1,300kg artillery gun up a 130m incline before firing it.

Paul said: “My favourite activity was the white water rafting during the adventure training package in Drakensburg National Park. The runs were a little tame at first because the water was quite low, then we entered a steep gorge and the fun really began. The water was really fast with rocks sticking out all over the place. I have to admit I spent more time in the water than on the raft, but that just added to the fun. The Battlefield tour was really interesting and the locals in Ladysmith made us all feel really welcome when we took part in the Freedom parade.”

Captain Simon Lowis, of the 1st Battalion and one of the organisers, said: “It was good to take elements of the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battalions and pull together as a Regiment rather than its individual units. The people of Ladysmith were perfect hosts and made us feel extremely welcome there. The South African Army parade a little differently to ours so we had a couple of drill sessions with them before the Freedom ceremony and it went really well on the day.”