It was the second of five homecoming parades taking place this week to mark the return of 1 R ANGLIAN, known as the Vikings, to the UK having completed a six-month tour in Afghanistan.
The Vikings’ commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mick Aston, led the parade. He said:
It was a brilliant day. I was astounded with the number of people we had come and see us. Our soldiers don’t ask for a lot. But as a county regiment to come back into the county and have so much demonstrative support makes all the hardships we’ve endured over the last six months in Afghanistan melt away.
You cannot underestimate what the public’s support and recognition means to us. We have been supported by Havering Council for a long time now; from supporting our regimental memorial to awarding us the Freedom of the Borough, it is a huge privilege.
Private Paul Lashbrook, one of the soldiers on parade, said:
It’s been a great day. One I will remember for a long time to come. It was great to see so many people come out and support us.
Councillor Michael White, Leader of Havering Council, added:
What a grand sight. Seeing our troops smartly parading through the town made me and everyone in Havering incredibly proud.
All of our armed forces do an amazing job both at home and abroad on our behalf. Earlier this year Havering Council signed the Armed Forces Community Covenant which establishes a special relationship between the armed forces, the Council and residents. The military is really important to our community, and we’ve pledged to support them in every way we can.
Sergeant Michael Smith said:
It was great to see the crowds turn out in Romford on such a chilly day. It’s great to be back here home with our families, even if it is around 50 degrees colder! And we’re looking forward to having some time off and enjoying ourselves over Christmas.
The battalion’s task was that of ‘Transition Support Unit’ in Nad ‘Ali. The deployment ran from April to October and saw the Vikings provide the basis and majority of the battlegroup responsible for the Nad ‘Ali district in Helmand province.
The Area of Operations was the largest in Task Force Helmand, with nearly 1,000 soldiers from 12 other units and regiments joining to make the 1,600-strong battlegroup.
During their six-month tour, the Vikings found more than 150 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) which would otherwise have killed or wounded local nationals in the area.
They also detained 68 insurgents, who were captured along with 100kg of explosives for IEDs, 46 rifles, over 4,200 rounds of ammunition and more than 340kg of raw and processed heroin, destined to fund terrorism across Afghanistan.
We’re all very proud of what we’ve done in Afghanistan, and I think there’s a great sense of achievement in a job well done,” said Sgt Smith. “The Afghan Army are doing an amazing job, really professional, and very impressive - much more so than a lot of people back here in UK realise. They pick up the training really quickly and are doing a great job out on the ground.
The Battalion will be marching in Diss, Norfolk today (Wednesday); Basildon, Essex on Thursday and Peterborough on Friday.