TWO HUNDRED and fifty soldiers proudly marched through Market Drayton town centre on Saturday (7 December) to mark their return from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The troops, from 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment based at Clive Barracks, Tern Hill, started the homecoming parade at 11am from the Royal British Legion on Church Street.
Regimental mascot Brian Boru X, a pure-bred Irish Wolfhound, led the way along with musical accompaniment from the combined Bugles, Pipes and Drums of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment.
On a cold but sunny day, the streets were lined with hundreds of people who cheered and applauded the soldiers every step of the way.
Half-way through the parade the troops paused as the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire, Anna Turner JP, praised them for the work they carried out in Afghanistan “standing up for safety and peace” under difficult circumstances during the deployment which ran from April to November.
The troops and watching members of the public were also addressed by the Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Lewis, who noted that 350 men and women from the regiment took part in the tour.
While in Afghanistan, the soldiers undertook between 40 and 70 personal security missions every day and responded to 11 high profile attacks on the city.
Hearing the applause and cheers was much appreciated by us all Lt Col Lewis
Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Lewis said, “Our Battalion enjoys a superb relationship with Market Drayton and it was wonderful to see so many people turn out. Hearing the applause and cheers was much appreciated by us all and will stay with our soldiers as they return to their families to enjoy a well-earned Christmas break.
“We had a very successful deployment in Kabul working as part of the multinational NATO coalition. Our troops’ tasks ranged from base force protection, to responding to incidents in the city and providing protection for senior NATO advisers as they travelled round the city in armoured vehicles.”
Operation Toral is the name for the British element of NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan where British soldiers train, advise and mentor Afghan troops. This helps to create a strong Afghan security force.
1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment are no strangers to Afghanistan having deployed there on five occasions.