'Fantastic' welcome home for Chivenor troops
“ABSOLUTELY fantastic” is how the returning men and women of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment described their home coming parade reception from the people of Braunton yesterday (Wednesday.)Hundreds lined the streets, waving Union Flags and banners to clap, cheer and call out encouragement as the 300 engineer troops of RMB Chivenor, fresh from a tough tour of duty in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, Browse more pictures from this event >>
“ABSOLUTELY fantastic” is how the returning men and women of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment described their home coming parade reception from the people of Braunton yesterday (Wednesday.)
Hundreds lined the streets, waving Union Flags and banners to clap, cheer and call out encouragement as the 300 engineer troops of RMB Chivenor, fresh from a tough tour of duty in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, returned home.
“It was absolutely fantastic and really moving to see so many people lining the streets,” said Captain Matt Smith, speaking today.
“Even those who have served for 20-odd years said they had never experienced anything like that and it truly was fantastic to see so many people, we just had not expected that at all.”
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The parade followed a medal giving ceremony in the overflow section of Caen Street car park, also packed to capacity with friends, family and well-wishers.
Before the medals were awarded, both North Devon MP Nick Harvey and Councillor Jasmine Chesters, chairman of Braunton Parish Council who instigated the event on behalf of the council, addressed the troops to welcome them home and praise their service.
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Major General CJ Boag CBE also spoke, reading out an open letter to the British troops from the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai thanking them for the real benefits they had brought to his country.
“I thought the day went off extremely well and it was magic to see all those people there cheering the troops on,” said Mrs Chesters.
“On behalf of the village I would like to thank everyone who showed their support.
Thankfully no one from the regiment was killed whilst carrying out their challenging supporting role for 3 Commando Brigade.
But amongst the ranks was a poignant reminder of the danger they had faced and the sacrifices made, with a two of those present confined to wheelchairs and bearing the dreadful wounds they had suffered during the conflict.
Following the parade a service was held at St Brannocks Parish Church, conducted by the Reverend Anne Thorne Vicar of Braunton, for the regiment, dignitaries and families.
The regiment was formed in April and its role in Afghanistan has been hugely varied, supporting not only 3 Commando, but rebuilding local roads, schools and hospitals, dealing with roadside bombs and creating everything from bases and fortifications to bridges.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Jim Weeden said in spite of the challenges their work was improving the lives, security and future prospects of the Afghans in Helmand.
“The men and women of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment have trained hard and they have all brought their wide range of skills to bear with ingenuity, unswerving determination, courage, fortitude and humour,” he said.
“I feel genuinely humbled by the efforts and achievements and I am immensely proud of them.
“Back home at Chivenor our families we left behind have been looked after by the Regimental Rear party. They have done a fantastic job, as have the families who have carried on with life while their husbands and partners were over there.”
From 2pm today the Regiment will be on leave for seven weeks for a much-deserved spell with their families.