September 17 2014 Latest news:
Jon Vale, Reporter
Saturday, January 11, 2014
There was not a spare space as hundreds lined the streets to welcome home military personnel who have recently returned from Afghanistan.
More than 100 servicemen and women from the No 2 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, based at RAF Honington, paraded through the streets of Bury St Edmunds on Saturday to rapturous applause.
Having started on the Angel Hill, The Band of the Royal Air Force College led the parade up through the town centre to The Arc shopping centre.
A medal ceremony was then held in Market Square outside The Apex before service personnel joined friends and family for a private celebration.
Senior Aircraftman James Tuffin was one of those that marched through the town, and said people’s reaction made his seven-month tour of duty seem even more worthwhile.
He added: “It was fantastic. It’s been a long seven months, but on a day like today it’s hard to keep a smile off my face, especially with my parents’ faces smiling back at me.
“For so many people to have come out and seen us really makes it so worthwhile. We’re definitely making a difference out there.”
It was the penultimate parade that will run through the town, with all British combat troops set to withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of this year.
The squadron, which arrived back in November and was granted an immediate period of rest, was responsible for air defence at Camp Bastion, including escorting vehicles that flew in and out of the base in Helmand Province.
Squadron leader Paula Wilmott said: “The squadron really want to use it as an opportunity to thank people in the local area.
“It’s a hugely emotional time for them because it’s a chance for them to see how much their community has been thinking about them.”
The ceremony was moved from the Angel Hill to The Arc for the fist time, and town mayor Terry Buckle thought the move worked well.
He said: “This is the first time we’ve had it in the Apex square and to some extent it is quite nice. It is quite intimate, they’re near to the people. The applause was very noticeable.
“I thought it was a very nice ceremony. I don’t know how many people were here but it was a good crowd. I think it’s great that we welcome back our troops.”