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Lions of England' welcomed home from Afghanistan

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (2 LANCS), known as the 'Lions of England', were given a rousing welcome during a parade at their home base in Episkopi, Cyprus.

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The event was held yesterday, Thursday 18 November 2010, to mark the return of the Battalion from its recent tour of Afghanistan and also served to mark the end of the unit’s commitment as the Theatre Reserve Battalion (TRB).

The parade included a march past a central dais, where the salute was taken by Lieutenant Colonel Bob Pickford, Commander of Episkopi Station, accompanied by the families of the six soldiers of the Battalion who lost their lives whilst serving in Afghanistan, and also the families of those who were injured.

Talking immediately after the event, Lt Col Pickford explained why he felt it was necessary to hold such an event:

In the UK, major cities and towns are brought to a standstill and people travel from across the country to support respective homecomings,” he said. “Therefore this is merely a token of our appreciation from the Episkopi community to honour our local battalion and the families of those who have been killed and wounded and also to acknowledge the end of what has been the longest TRB on record.

2 LANCS’ Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robbie Boyd, added:

Today we remember with pride our six fallen and march in their memory at the invitation of Episkopi Garrison. We have experienced the same pride that the people of the North West of England have in us from our friends here in Cyprus and we are genuinely thrilled to bits.

Lt Col Boyd went on to explain the importance of having local support:

Without the outstanding support we have received we would not have been as brilliantly equipped, as well-trained, as well-deployed, and as well-recovered,” he said. “Their support to my 250 families, particularly to my two on-island widows, has been outstanding, and, on behalf of all the ‘Lions of England’ and their families, I would like to express my most sincere thanks to them all.

The parade was followed by a Battalion Memorial Service attended by the Battalion, their families and bereaved relatives.

During the service, Commander British Forces Cyprus, Air Vice Marshal Graham Stacey, presented an Elizabeth Cross to Mrs Julie Baxter, mother of Kingsman Darren Deady who died in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on 10 September 2010 as a result of injuries sustained in Afghanistan.

Lt Col Pickford summarised the day’s events:

The parade and memorial service play as much a part in the overall operation as the deployment itself,” he said. “It is one of the final chapters in closing the door, remembering those who didn’t return, celebrating the success and returning to normality. The memorial will play a significant part in the grieving process for the families and close friends of those who were tragically killed in action.

2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment will now undertake operational security tasks within British Forces Cyprus and are due to return to Weeton Barracks, near Blackpool, in the summer of 2011.

Published 19 November 2010