Parents' relief on seeing Mark

The parents of Lowestoft Royal Marine Mark Banks have spoken of their joy after an emotional reunion with their son at his base in Devon. Allistair and Penny Banks left their Suffolk home with other family members during the early hours of Thursday to make sure they were at the Royal Marines base Chivenor, near Barnstaple, in good time to welcome their son back to the UK.

The parents of Lowestoft Royal Marine Mark Banks have spoken of their joy after an emotional reunion with their son at his base in Devon.

Allistair and Penny Banks left their Suffolk home with other family members during the early hours of Thursday to make sure they were at the Royal Marines base Chivenor, near Barnstaple, in good time to welcome their son back to the UK.

Following the moment they had been waiting for after a 13-day ordeal, the couple spoke briefly about their relief at 24-year-old Mark's safe return.

Mrs Banks, 49, said: “We are delighted to have him back and it was so nice to hold him again. We can't wait to get him home to Lowestoft so he can see everyone.”

Mr Banks, 52, added: “We are very proud of him. He looks well, but tired.”

It was unclear when the Banks family would be returning to their Lowestoft home, but next-door neighbour Dora Whiteside said they could be sure of a big reception.

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Neighbours rigged up bunting and a welcome-home sign in readiness for Mr Banks' return.

Mrs Whiteside, who has lived next to the family for 25 years, said: “It was brilliant news because the family have been really concerned. They will be overwhelmed.

“I was so pleased for the family. They are very close and when you've got children of your own you can understand what they were feeling.

“I have spoken to them on the phone and they said they were exhausted after everything but very relieved. I think it all happened so quickly in the end.”

Mrs Whiteside said she had stayed in regular contact with the Banks family during their ordeal and revealed the trauma they had suffered.

“I've been looking in on them and making sure they are all right,” she added. “At the beginning I don't think they were able to eat or sleep but they were better once they saw Mark on the television and realised he was all right.

“You get so concerned for other people and what they are going through.”

Mrs Whiteside said she had seen Mark grow up and added: He was a typical boy. He enjoys life and was doing us proud in the Royal Marines.”

During the past week, since it was revealed Mr Banks was among the 15 military personnel being held in Iran, friends and relatives have told how his bubbly personality would have helped his colleagues through their ordeal.

Mr Banks' older brother Neil, 26, said: “Mark is very tough and he will have been keeping a lot of the others laughing. He would have been boosting morale and I'm sure he will have coped well.”

A former Pakefield Primary and Middle School and Kirkley High pupil, Mr Banks also attended Lowestoft College and played for Kirkley Football Club reserves. He still has many friends at the club and former team-mates told of their distress when they learned he had been captured.