Family's delight at soldier's release

THE relieved family of Suffolk Royal Marine Mark Banks said last night they were planning a party for when he arrives home from his Iran ordeal.The 15 British Service personnel captured by the Iranians were today preparing to fly home after their 13-day spell in captivity was suddenly brought to a close.

THE relieved family of Suffolk Royal Marine Mark Banks said last night they were planning a party for when he arrives home from his Iran ordeal.

The 15 British Service personnel captured by the Iranians were today preparing to fly home after their 13-day spell in captivity was suddenly brought to a close.

Yesterday's dramatic announcement by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was greeted with delight at the Banks' family home in Lowestoft.

Mr Banks' brother, Neil, 26, said: It's been a really, really difficult time. We didn't think we would ever get to the end of the tunnel, but we are there now.


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“We just want to see him back home on British soil and I'll be having a few beers with my little brother when he gets back. I didn't quite know what to make of it when I first heard.

“We're absolutely delighted. I can't wait to see that cheeky smile and that laughing face. It has been very distressing and emotional, but we have a good family and good friends, who have helped to see us through.

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“There will be a very, very big party when he arrives home.”

Mr Banks said his parents, Allistair, 52, and Penny, 49, were still coming to terms with their 24-year-old son's capture and were “pretty frayed”.

He added: “We have had lots of messages of support and we are very grateful for them. I love my brother to bits and I am terribly proud of what he has done. I know my parents are too.

“Mark will be absolutely stunned at the amount of attention he is receiving. He will be totally overwhelmed and I would guess he will have no idea of the attention he's got.

“He is very tough and he will have been keeping a lot of the others laughing. He would have been boosting morale and I'm sure he will have coped well. My brother is a bit of a joker and I'm sure he would have made the best of a very difficult situation.”

Mr Banks' parents added in a statement: “We are elated to hear the news and we can't wait to be reunited with our son.

“We are thankful for all the support we have received from out friends and family and we all can't wait to have Mark home soon.”

Royal Marine Banks, a former Pakefield Primary and Middle school and Kirkley High pupil has served with the Royal Marines for about three years.

Mr Banks played for Lowestoft-based Kirkley FC Reserves before joining the Marines and is still close friends with many players, turning up to support the club during his periods at home.

Kirkley manager Nick Shorten said: “It's obviously fantastic news for the individuals concerned and their families.

“It's great that Mark is going to be coming home. His family have been through a difficult time so for it all to be resolved is excellent. He has got a lot of friends in the area and at the football club so I'm sure there will be a lot of happy people in the town tonight.”

Alan Middleton-Stewart, chairman of the Lowestoft branch of the Royal Marine Association (RMA), of Suffolk, was joined by Mr Banks' father and brother at their meeting, held at Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, in Lowestoft, yesterday.

He said: “I'm so pleased they've been released. From the RMA's point of view it's the best thing that could've happened.

“Mark's dad and brother attended our meeting at noon but it wasn't until they got home that they heard. They were quite quiet and they were putting a brave face on it when we saw them. When we heard the news I called and spoke to Penny, who said she was 'dumbstruck' and 'over the moon'. It's great news.”

mark.bulstrode@eadt.co.uk

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