Friday, December 11, 2009
More than 100 British soldiers serving in Afghanistan - who witnessed some of the bloodiest fighting the conflict has seen - are due to return home after a gruelling six-month tour.
The battle-hardened men of Egypt Squadron, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, have spent their last remaining days unwinding in transit accommodation in Camp Bastion, Helmand province.
Since landing in the battered middle-eastern country in June, the Tidworth, Wiltshire-based squadron has lost three soldiers and seen numerous men injured.
They also fought in the now-notoriously fierce Operation Panther's Claw, clashing with the Taliban on a daily basis.
They will board an RAF Hercules and fly away from Camp Bastion and later onwards out of Afghanistan - unlikely to return for at least 18 months.
Captain Marc Bannister, 40, from Monkleigh, Devon, said the tour had thrown up both "moments of chaos and moments of clarity".
"They're doing a fantastic job," he said. "The counter-insurgency is working, we're beating the Taliban."
He went on: "It's been a humbling experience working with these young people. If you think there's a problem with youths today, you should look at these men and think again."
During the tour, the squadron lost Trooper Joshua Hammond, 18, Trooper Brett Hall, 21, and Cpl Lee Scott, 26.