PRINCE Charles praised the “fighting spirit” of county soldiers as he presented the Mercian Regiment with their new colours in Worcester today.

His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, Colonel in Chief of the armed forces, bestowed the colours on the regiment during a ceremony at Sixways Stadium.

It marked the first time the regiment has been presented with colours since it was formed from the merger of other, older regiments in 2007.

The 2nd Battalion takes its heritage from the former Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, Worcester’s local regiment, the 1st Battalion from the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment, the 3rd Battalion from the Staffordshire Regiment and 4th Battalion is made up of Territorial Army volunteers.

The Prince, wearing the ceremonial uniform of the regiment, first met with representatives of the Mercians from cadets to veterans, in the Duckworth Suite, before making his way to a dais on the pitch, standing alongside Major General Andrew Sharpe.

Standing to attention before him were all four battalions. Five hundred of an estimated 1,500 soldiers present at the stadium took part in the parade, all in full dress uniforms.

The Prince took the regiment’s salute, with troops wearing oak leaves on their caps to mark the presence of royalty.

During the ceremony, the old colours were removed and must be laid to rest on consecrated ground, with the 2nd Battalion’s old colours destined for Worcester Cathedral.

The colours were formally consecrated by the venerable Jonathan Woodhouse, chaplain general of the armed forces. Prince Charles then raised and saluted the new colours of each battalion.

Addressing the regiment, as well as troops and families and friends in attendance, the Prince said: “The last few years have seen tremendous courage, professionalism and sacrifice on a whole succession of operations and great patience, support and resilience from their families who have seen them sent into harm’s way.”

He described the colours as “the heritage, fighting spirit and soul of the regiment” and spoke of the challenges which lay ahead which will see the Mercians lose a battalion when they return from Afghanistan next year.

Among those on parade was Private Alex Mullin, aged 20, of Napleton Lane, Kempsey, who joined the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment in 2008.

“We don’t get to do this very often,” he said. “It is good to do it in Worcester for friends and family.”

Private Ben Hughes, aged 21, of Tolladine Road, Worcester, of the 2nd Battalion who has completed a tour in Afghanistan, said: “It is quite arduous, stood still for all that time but the pride side of it keeps you going.

Everyone is in the same boat – we’re all stood in front of royalty.”

He said when he marched past the dais he managed to make eye contact with the Prince and felt "a tremendous sense of honour”.

Captain Duncan Hadland, also of the 2nd Battalion, who is from Stourbridge, said: “We have lost quite a few guys recently in the 2nd Battalion. The Prince knows how difficult it is to see family go off to war. When he speaks to us he does know what it’s like and how it feels.”

Next on the agenda for the Prince was a visit to the factory floor as he got a behind the scenes look at British manufacturing in Yamazaki Mazak’s European headquarters in Warndon.

He took time to chat and share jokes with employees as he was given a guided tour by Marcus Burton, the group’s managing director for Europe and Hiroyuki Yamazaki, the deputy group managing director.

Mr Burton said: “He was in great spirits and appreciated the visit very much.

“The visit was really about the importance of manufacturing in the UK and how it is becoming more important to make things.”

The managing director added the Prince of Wales showed a keen interest in the progress made by the firm’s apprentices, as well as the investment made by the founding Japanese family.

A group of students from Bishop Perowne CE College were also on hand to take photos in the firm’s Solutions Gallery as part of a project to use photography and art to represent modern manufacturing in a positive way to the next generation.

Yamazaki Mazak is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of computer numerical controlled metal-cutting and laser processing machine tools, with more than 6,500 employees.

In the afternoon, the Prince visited the Morgan Motor Factory in Malvern, where he was given a whistlestop tour by current chairman Charles Morgan, and was even taken for a ride in one of the firm’s latest models.

He was particularly impressed by the company’s best known car, the Morgan 3 Wheeler, even suggesting to the Mr Morgan that he was interested in one in indigo.

As he left the factory the Prince praised all that he had seen on the day, saying to Mr Morgan: “I congratulate you.

“You set a good example for British Manufacturing.”

Highlights of his visit included unveiling a plaque, being presented with a Morgan teddy by Angela Hymas, visitor centre manager, to pass on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.