Sunday, May 3, 2009

Heroes welcome for returning Afghanistan tour soldiers - Telegraph

The last group of soldiers from 1st Battalion The Rifles were given a heroes' welcome as they arrived home in Britain following a six month tour of Afghanistan.

Commanding Officer Lt Col Joe Cavanagh said: "Just south of where these chaps have been doing their work becomes a fairly lawless, difficult and dangerous place.

"These men have been exposed to some of that in one of the more difficult parts of Helmand.

"They've been doing the full range of normal security tasks, patrolling in vehicles and on foot to enhance security and, when they get the chance, doing a bit to support development and other assistance to the community."

Lt Col Cavanagh added: "B Company itself didn't have anybody killed, but had some serious casualties, men injured who were brought back to the UK. Two of them I would describe as serious and others had less life-changing injuries.

"Helmand is a dangerous place and the lads, and to a certain extent their families, have come to terms with that."

Armed with banners and balloons, around 250 family and friends cheered their loved ones as they arrived at the barracks.

Rifleman Richard Robinson, 20, from Swindon, who was welcomed home by his seven-year-old brother Robbie, said "It's been hard for everyone, physically and mentally, but we got through it."

Rifleman Dale Bishop, 28, from Wiltshire, was reunited with fiance Lance Corporal Kelly Duddy, 27, who only returned from Afghanistan herself last month.

He said: "It was my second time out there and it was a tough time, it was hot carrying a lot of heavy kit. I've been looking forward to coming back to this beautiful woman."

Lance Corporal Duddy, from Birmingham, added: "We were out there at the same time which was brilliant."

Martin Tudor, from Stroud, was there to welcome home his 18-year-old son, Rifleman Mitchell Tudor.

He said: "We've been on Facebook and mobile phones and now we've physically got him home we can relax a little bit more. It's difficult to put the feeling into words really."

His son said he was looking forward to spending some time with girlfriend Jess.

A celebratory welcome home parade through Chepstow is planned for May 21.

Another memorial event to remember the eight who lost their lives - Rifleman Stuart Nash, Corporal Richard Robinson, Corporal Daniel Nield, Lance Corporal Stephen Kingscott, Serjeant Chris Reed, Rifleman Jamie Gunn, Lance Corporal Paul Upton and Corporal Tom Gaden - is also in the process of being organised.

B Company were based with the Queen's Dragoon Guards Battle Group away from the rest of their Battalion.
B Company, from a battalion that lost eight men during a tour, has spent the last six months in Garmsir, Helmand Province.

The 124 soldiers were greeted by family and friends as they arrived back at Beachley Barracks, near Chepstow, south Wales.

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