'Vikings’ need your support

MARK NICHOLLS The commanding officer of the battle-scarred Royal Anglian troops returning from Afghanistan has made a powerful plea to people of the region to back a £100,000 fund that will honour those killed and injured in the fighting.

MARK NICHOLLS

The commanding officer of the battle-scarred Royal Anglian troops returning from Afghanistan has made a powerful plea to people of the region to back a £100,000 fund that will honour those killed and injured in the fighting.

Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Carver, who leads the 1st battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, wants people to donate to the fund but also give his soldiers a rousing welcome home at parades across the region in the coming weeks.

With the final contingent of his men and women - nicknamed The Vikings - due to arrive back in the UK on Tuesday, Lt Col Carver spoke with pride and sadness of their achievements and sacrifices.

He said his troops will return with extraordinary tales to tell about beating the Taliban back in their “comfort zones” of Helmand province and bringing improved security to the region allowing progress to be made on reconstruction projects.

“In doing so,” he said, “we have been involved in some of the most ferocious close-quarter combat the British Army has experienced for decades in extremely challenging terrain and temperatures that exceeded 50 degrees at their peak.”

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He spoke of how his troops risked everything to make Afghanistan a better place.

But he added: “Our advances have not been without cost. Nine Vikings have died during the tour and a further 57 have been wounded in battle.

“There will not be a town in East Anglia that does not know someone who has been injured.

“Even though the medical support provided by our medics in theatre and at various hospitals in the UK is first class, some of our men will be scarred for life by their injuries.”

And it is for this reason, he said, that the 1 Royal Anglian Afghanistan Memorial Fund was established: to provide the best quality of life to those who have been seriously wounded and build a permanent memorial to those who died during the tour of Helmand.

In addition to the 57 injured in battle, as many again suffered injuries through the treacherous conditions.

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