The soldiers of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment have been parading through various town centres in South East England this week to mark their return home from Afghanistan.
The Battalion, known as the Vikings, deployed three Rifle Companies and two Fire Support Groups to support Task Force Helmand from October 2009 to April 2010.
They have marked their return from operations this week with homecoming parades in Ely, Barking and Dagenham, Southend and Norwich. At all locations the local people warmly welcomed the soldiers home.
There has been much attention however on some individuals at the parade in Barking and Dagenham who chose to shout abuse at the marching soldiers.
It is the first time the Battalion has exercised the Freedom of the Borough, which was awarded to The Regiment, by Barking and Dagenham Council, in January 2010.
The parade saw around 200 soldiers, accompanied by the Minden Band, march through the town with bayonets fixed and flags flying.
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said:
I am delighted that yesterday’s 1 Royal Anglian homecoming in Southend was free from the trouble that accompanied their parade in Barking.
The behaviour of a small number of religious and political extremists there on Tuesday was a complete and utter disgrace. Their hate-filled actions threatened to tarnish what should have been a heart-warming family and community celebration of our troops.
But I was glad to see that much greater numbers were in Barking to drown out the so-called protesters, and that similar scenes did not take place in Southend.
Many people, including the Muslim community, turned out in force in Barking to welcome our troops home. And yesterday in Southend the public were similarly vocal in their appreciation. I know that this will have meant a great deal to 1 Royal Anglian, to whom we owe so much.
If people don’t support the mission in Afghanistan, then they are welcome to take the Government to task for that as appropriate but they should give to the Armed Forces the respect and honour that their bravery deserves.
The three company groups deplyed to Helmand were split across the Task Force battle space.
A (Norfolk) Company were sent to support the Household Cavalry Regiment in the north of Combined Force Musa Qa’leh. C (Essex) Company we deployed to the Southern Patrol Base Line with the Grenadier Guards Battle Group in Combined Force Nad-e’Ali, and D (Cambridgeshire) Company occupied Patrol Base Khah Nikhar in Combined Force Nar-e Saraj (North) working under the command of the Danish Battlegroup.
Later the Battalion Headquarters deployed to take on the task of mentoring the Afghan National Police Provincial Headquarters and to expand the Helmand Police Training Centre to pass out 150 new Aghan Police every three weeks.
This dispersed deployment meant that the ‘Viking’ fighting power was spread across the Task Force and helped contribute to many of the shaping operations prior to, during and post Op Moshtarak.
Vikings helped set the conditions for the successful operation into northern Nad-e Ali, the cutting of the insurgent supply routes on the east bank of the river Helmand in Nar-e Saraj (North), and setting the conditions for an efficient and successful handover of northern Musa Qa’leh to the United States Marine Corps.
Throughout the tour Viking soldiers and commanders embraced the principles of courageous restraint in order to win the population. They were fully embedded and partnered with the Afghan National Security Forces and where necessary took the fight to the enemy with steadfast courage and determination alongside the Afghan Warriors of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.
Sadly five members of the Battalion lost their lives in Afghanistan.