The soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment (the Vikings) were greeted by warm applause by the thousands of spectators gathered in Diss Market Place.

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The Battalion was inspected by Diss mayor Graham Minshull and the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Jewson while the band kept the crowd entertained with a series of big band tunes, including the Raiders March made famous as the theme tune for the film Indiana Jones.

After each tune, another burst of cheers and applause rippled around the packed Market Place, which was bathed in warm winter sunshine.

The mayor gave a speech welcoming the troops and praising their efforts in helping to establish good government in Afghanistan.

He said: “On behalf of the town council and the town and county, may I wish you a warm welcome to Diss.

“We are very honoured to see you and have followed your exploits with great interest. We are proud of the Battalion and the jobs you do on our behalf. We applaud your efforts in support of local governments in Helmand province.”

The Regiment’s colonel, Major General Philip Jones, thanked the town council for bestowing the honour on the Regiment and spoke about the “vital role” the soldiers had played in bringing peace and security to Afghanistan.

He said Diss and Norfolk had produced fine soldiers for the Regiment and paid tribute to the 16 soldiers who died.

“The soldiers make sacrifices to fulfil their role, sometimes with their lives and the recognition of those at home makes that effort worthwhile. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for granting the Regiment the Freedom of Diss. We look forward to returning to Diss in years to come.”

Canon Tony Billett, rector of Diss, also read a blessing.

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