Picture special: Braunton gives troops a hero’s welcome
The village streets were packed as crowds gathered to welcome home the troops of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment after their tour of Afghanistan.
HUNDREDS lined the streets of Braunton this afternoon (Thursday) as the whole community turned out to welcome home the troops of Chivenor-based 24 Commando Engineer Regiment after a six month stint in Afghanistan.
Amid cheers, clapping and the waving of a multitude of Union Flags the regiment formed up opposite the Parish Hall where they were presented with the Freedom of Braunton by Parish Council Chairman, Councillor Marguerite Shapland.
After the ceremony, attended by Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey MP plus Major General Colin Boag of the Royal Engineers, they paraded along the main village street, equally packed with throngs of well wishers, to Velator Way where the troops disbanded.
Earlier in the day a medal ceremony for 150 members of the regiment following their first tour of Afghanistan took place at RMB Chivenor.
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Mrs Shapland told the troops: “In every conflict in which personnel from Chivenor have been involved the people of Braunton have given special support and worried about ‘our’ troops.
“We consider you part of our community, our village family and as such we worry about you and your families.
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“We are so thankful you have all come back, but we do not forget those who have been injured and will bear the scars for many years to come.”
The commando presence in Braunton stretches back 16 years, firstly as 59 Commando and then as 24 Commando Engineers with the creation of a new regiment in 2008.
Accepting the Freedom of Braunton on behalf of the regiment, Lt Col Tingey said: “It means a huge deal to us. The support that this community has given to this regiment has been simply outstanding from the month that we arrived here.
“This is a fantastic way to finish the day and thank you to you all for sharing this very important day with us.”
Maj Gen Boag said it was his second visit to Braunton for a medal ceremony and parade and he was again impressed by how the community had come out in force to welcome back its members.
“That comes through very strongly,” he told the Gazette, “the people here see 24 Commando as part of their community, which is very evident from the support they show on days like these – and very much appreciated by the soldiers themselves.
“Even the most hard-bitten can’t fail to be impressed by the show of support that they give here.”
Click on the gallery link to the top right of this story to see more pictures from the Homecoming Parade.