Colchester: Soldiers return from Afghanistan

FRIENDS and relatives welcomed the return of over 70 soldiers to Colchester after a six month tour of Afghanistan.

Members of the 16 Medical Regiment, including Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Jez Hair, arrived back at Merville Barracks yesterday evening.

The contingent of 76 soldiers has been giving medical support to 16 Air Assault Brigade, as part of the Joint Force Medical Group on Operation Herrick13, providing primary health care and Pre Hospital Emergency Care for wounded soldiers.

The medics have also been patrolling with infantry across Helmand, training Afghan Army medics and working at Camp Bastion’s hospital.

The troops have flown back via Cyprus where they spent 36 hours in ‘decompression’, unwinding in advance of their return to the UK.

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Major Jill Winters, an ITU nurse, had no idea her parents Sue and Paul Winters were going to be there. They had travelled down from Cheshire to meet her.

“I can’t put into words how excited I am about seeing her. It was quite difficult at the start when she first left and we were obviously a bit worried,” said Mrs Winters.

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“We usually speak on the phone a lot when she’s not away, so I’ve missed being able to do that. But we know she has to do it because it’s her job and she loves it.

“When she came home in November last year, she couldn’t wait to get back out there,” she added.

Shona Seal and daughter Olivia, 8, were meeting husband and father Staff Sergeant David, an environmental health technician.

“We’ve all been missing him but it’s gone quickly. It’s been quite difficult for Olivia who’s been a bit emotional and struggled to get her head round it at times.

“But luckily we’ve had lots of support from friends and other families going through the same thing as us.

“We’ve told Olivia her dad’s not back until tomorrow so it’s going to be a big surprise for her when she sees him.”

As Colchester based units start to come back, all units from 16 Air Assault Brigade deployed on Operation Herrick 13 will have returned to the UK by early May.

Of the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan, approximately 4,000 are based in East Anglia, either at Colchester or Wattisham and Woodbridge in Suffolk.

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