Poignant Minden Day celebration for Royal Anglian troops

Soldiers from across East Anglia were joined by their families to celebrate an annual display of regimental pride for the last time at their current base.

The 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment commemorated Minden Day at its barracks in Pirbright, Surrey, on August 1.

The event marks a historic victory on the same date in 1759, when regiments including the Anglians' predecessors triumphed against French troops during the Battle of Minden in northern Germany.

In their honour, the modern-day Vikings wore red and yellow roses – a tradition which recalls the wild flowers plucked by the advancing British soldiers 252 years earlier.

Campaign medals and long-service honours were also presented during Monday's parade at Elizabeth Barracks, before an informal afternoon of family fun, fairground games and a barbecue.

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But those loved ones will not be able to attend next year's celebration, as the battalion is due to return to active service in Afghanistan in March. After that, they will return to a new base after relocating to Bulford, in Wiltshire.

Lt Col Mick Aston, attending his first Minden Day as commanding officer after taking charge of the battalion, said: 'Today is all about getting our families here to help us celebrate an important battle honour. We are very proud of Minden Day and it is something that binds us together.

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'But next year we will be deployed and the year after that we will be in Bulford, so this is the last Minden Day in Pirbright.

'But we have celebrated it before in Kenya, Afghanistan and Iraq, and we will still get together as Vikings on this day next year. It may be a bit of an epic getting the flowers out there, but we will still do it.'

The Minden Roses were presented by VIPs including former Vikings' commander Major General John Sutherell.

In his address to the troops, he said it was a day to remember historic battle honours as well as the bravery of today's Vikings, who lost five men during their last tour of Afghanistan in 2009/10, and nine in 2007.

'We are remembering not just the deeds of our forebears and the battle honours emblazoned on your colours, but also the achievements and sacrifices of this generation of Vikings, many of whose families are with us here today,' he said.

'It has been an extraordinary ten years and this very much includes the support given to you all by your families. 'Those of us who have retired from active service feel an admiration for what you have done and what you are doing – and that goes for all the towns, cities and villages in East Anglia. Thanks to you, the reputation of the Royal Anglian Regiment and the Vikings has never been higher.'

A special presentation was made to long-serving officer Major Tim Jones, originally from Norwich, who was leaving to take up a staff officer's post at Salisbury Plain after 30 years with the battalion.

Major Jones, now 46, joined at the age of 16 as a private soldier before rising through the ranks, with his career including six operational tours of Northern Ireland and two in Afghanistan.

'It is very emotional to be leaving,' he said. 'General Sutherell was my first company commander when I served in Belize in 1982, so it was fitting that he was here to say farewell on my 30th Minden Day.

'It just sums up the family day. It is nice that people make the effort to see the parade and understand what it is all about, with all the presentations and the roses. It is nice to share that with your family.'

Major Jones was joined on Minden Day by his wife Niki, daughter Natalie, 23, and two-year-old granddaughter Amelia.

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