Two Welsh regiments received heroes' welcomes yesterday as they paraded through Swansea and the London Borough of Hounslow.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh (1 R WELSH) marched through Swansea town centre, while 350 members of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards (1 WG), proudly led by the Band of the Welsh Guards, marched through Hounslow, paying their respects at the war memorial along the way.
Greeting the Welsh Guards at Hounslow Civic Centre, the Leader of the Council, Councillor Jagdish Sharma, led the battalion in a minute’s silence when the names of the fallen were also solemnly read out by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dino Bossi, and the Last Post was played by a lone bugler. The battalion tragically lost three of their number on Operation HERRICK 16 in Afghanistan as well as two attached personnel, one of them from the RAF.
Following the poignant ceremony, 1 WG attended a reception hosted by the council, where they were warmly welcomed back to their adopted ‘home from home’ by Councillor Sharma.
Thanking the council for their generous hospitality, Lieutenant Colonel Bossi said:
It’s incredibly significant to us that the council host us in this way and the reception we have received has been magnificent.
We had a tough tour but it was very rewarding. Part of that reward was in seeing the increased security in Afghanistan and also in coming home to such a warm welcome by the council and the people of Hounslow.
It underlines their commitment to us - as does the recent signing of the Armed Forces Community Covenant by the council. I look forward to us moving forward together and strengthening our relationship still further.
In Swansea, soldiers of 1 R WELSH were led by the regimental goat, Billy, and the Band of the Prince of Wales’s Division as they marched through the city to the sound of cheering crowds.
1 R WELSH returned from Operation HERRICK 16 in October after a six-month tour of duty. The troops were based in Helmand province where they had a security and ground-holding role and conducted a range of missions including mentoring and liaising with the Afghan National Police and Army and ensuring the local population were safe from enemy threats.
The homecoming parade marked a historic day because the city also took the opportunity to sign up to the Armed Forces Community Covenant which aims to give fair support to members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.
1 R WELSH also remembered Captain Stephen Healey and Corporal Michael Thacker, who sadly both lost their lives during the tour of duty.
The battalion’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Webb, who is originally from Swansea, said the response from the public was very special. He added:
We have had so much support from the communities around Wales while we’ve been away and the soldiers are so grateful for that.
To return home and take part in these events provides us with an opportunity to say thank you for that support. It was a long tour and so much was achieved, but not without sacrifice.