Photo gallery: Emotional return from Afghanistan for Light Dragoon soldiers

'Until he is here, I don't know when he is safe. Until I give him a cuddle I won't be content.'

That was just one of the heartfelt messages from loved ones of 43 Light Dragoon soldiers who were greeted with tears and applause at the Robertson Barracks, Swanton Morley, tonight (Thursday) after a six month tour of Afghanistan.

The group, who arrived by bus, are one of the final groups to return from Helmand Province following their deployment as part of the 12th Mechanized Brigade. The last group are due to return this Sunday.

To celebrate the regiment leaving Afghanistan, about 350 Light Dragoons will be taking part in a homecoming parade in Dereham town centre on Wednesday, December 5, at 11am.

Shelley Kimpton, 25, from Hethersett, who was waiting for her boyfriend Trooper Terry Hutchinson, 28, said: 'When I met him I knew he was going to Afghanistan. I didn't know it was going to be as hard as it was. It was awful.

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'Waiting for him now, I just want to cry - I won't really believe it until he is here.'

Some 330 soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan from January this year and this was the Light Dragoons' fourth tour of Afghanistan - previous tours took place in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

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Despite this tour being a success, Sergeant Lee Davidson, from the regiment, was killed by a roadside bomb on Sunday, September 9.

This tragedy was still fresh in the minds of many who waited for the soldiers to arrive.

Emily Brook, 21, who was waiting for her husband Trooper Liam, also 21, said: 'Lee's death had a big impact. The camp was hit hard. It hit home that anything could happen to Liam. It made me more worried.'

The couple's first child, Bradley, was born six days before Mr Brook went out to Afghanistan and he has only spent a few weeks with his son.

Mr Brook said: 'It is crazy. It is nice to be back and be a dad.'

Lance Corporal Tom Abbott, 26, who has now completed three tours of Afghanistan, was greeted by his wife, Kelly, 26, and two young sons.

He said: 'It brings a tear to your eye.'

Another father who returned tonight was Staff Sergeant Paul Martin, 29, who has a three year old daughter called Gracie.

Mr Martin said: 'It was my first time away as a father. It was really hard for me missing birthdays and special events.'

His wife Danielle, 24, said: 'It is a relief to have him back. It is brilliant.'

Mother of five, Leila Price, 25, was waiting for her Trooper husband Daniel, 25, and said she was excited to have him home.

'It is all about seeing the family,' said Mr Price.

While in Afghanistan the Light Dragoons have undertaken different roles, including providing route safety for convoys.

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