The reception, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces, followed a joint parade from Wellington Barracks to the Palace of Westminster of personnel who served on Operation ELLAMY. The Band of the RAF Regiment accompanied the parade.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, said:
The welcome homes we offer to troops returning from operations are Parliament’s way of saying thank you for all that our Armed Forces do in our name.
The response of Members of Parliament and Peers is a testament to the high regard in which we hold them, and our respect for their service.
An E-3D Sentry and one Sentinel aircraft from RAF Waddington flew over the Houses of Parliament to mark the occasion, flanked by Typhoons and Tornado GR4 jets; some of the RAF aircraft instrumental in the success of Op ELLAMY.
Leading the parade of 120 RAF, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps men and women was Wing Commander Nick Tucker-Lowe, Officer Commanding No 2 (Army Cooperation) Squadron, based at RAF Marham.
Speaking about the mission over Libya, Wg Cdr Tucker-Lowe said:
We started the operation planning the Storm Shadow raids that were flown on the 3,000-mile [4,830km] round trip from the UK to Libya and back. They were the first UK-launched bombing missions we had flown since the Second World War.
We then deployed to Gioia del Colle in southern Italy and flew missions from there for the next five months in the skies over Libya; the first time that Typhoon and Tornado GR4 worked together.
I flew 62 Tornado GR4 missions; about 330 hours in total. That was about the going rate for most of the aircrew that I commanded for that time, it was non-stop. There was always an aircraft patrolling the skies over Libya, getting airborne, landing, crews briefing or debriefing.
There was no respite - each flight lasted up to eight hours, the equivalent distance of flying from London to Boston in the United States.
Commenting on yesterday’s parade and reception, Wg Cdr Tucker-Lowe said:
It is an honour to march alongside so many hardworking and determined servicemen and women; the success we had in Libya was success on behalf of the people of Libya. The people of Libya won the battle for Libya and they were supported by us.
We are very proud of the difference we were able to make; that we were able to save the lives of Libyan people and to give them the opportunity to choose their own future for years to come.
We are also proud of the support we get from the British public. To be operating a long way from home knowing that you are doing the will of the people of Britain, it means that you can sleep well at night and then get on with the job the next day, focused on the task in hand.
Also at yesterday’s reception was Air Commodore Gary Waterfall, the UK Air Component Commander on Op ELLAMY:
James Gray, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces, said:
When troops march into Parliament for a welcome home, they are applauded in by parliamentarians and staff. Politics are put to one side, arguments forgotten, while we honour those who serve and are prepared to sacrifice for their nation.
On operations in Libya, which took place over the summer of 2011, UK aircraft flew around 3,010 combat and combat support sorties lasting around 17,950 hours. Of these totals, the UK flew around 2,090 strike sorties, including fast jets and attack helicopters, lasting around 11,050 hours.
UK forces employed around 1,470 precision-guided munitions, 110 direct fire weapons, 4,100 rounds of direct fire 30mm cannon rounds, and around 240 high explosive or illumination rounds from 4.5-inch (114mm) naval guns.