Gallery: Cheers and applause for brave soldiers as they march through county town

THE REGION showed its appreciation with cheers and applause as crowds welcomed home heroes from Afghanistan.

People from across the county lined the streets of Ipswich to support the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment - The Vikings - as its soldiers marched through the town.

With colours flying, drums beating and bayonets fixed, members of the battalion exercised the Freedom of the Borough by parading through Ipswich accompanied by the Prince of Wales Band.

Among them Hannah Taylor, 18, whose brother Danny was among those on parade.

Miss Taylor said: “We have come to see my brother Danny who has come back from Afghanistan and to thank them all for what they have done for their country.”

Mum Natalie was also among those watching.

Mrs Taylor said: “I am a very proud mum. It has been a worrying time and it is brilliant having him home back safe and sound and in one piece. We are here to support all the lads.”

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Gerald Dorritt from the Colchester branch of the Royal Anglian Regimental Association was among the standard bearers that flanked the steps of Ipswich Town Hall as the salute was taken.

He said: “We are here today to support the regiment.”

As the battalion marched on to the Corn Hill crowd broke out in spontaneous applause in a mark of appreciation for the troops.

Also among the crowd was Ipswich mum Lorraine McClure, whose son Aaron was killed while on duty in Afghanistan in August 2007.

Lorraine, was proudly wearing her son’s medals.

She said: “I am really honoured to be marching with the veterans. This is the first time I have worn Aaron’s medals in public and today is an emotional day but I am filled with pride. Our spirits are high.”

Jane Brockbank, 65, from the Sudbury branch of the Royal British Legion was among the crowds.

Mrs Brockbank said: “We are very proud of our boys, they have come back from Afghanistan and they have done a wonderful job.”

Addressing the battalion, Ipswich Mayor Mary Blake welcomed the troops home paying tribute to the soldiers’ courage in the past months and years.

She said: “Ipswich is proud of its association with you and proud of the difficult and dangerous job you do on our behalf.”

The mayor paused during her speech to remember the 16 soldiers from the battalion who have died since its first deployment to Afghanistan back in 2002.

After the speeches the order was given to march through the crowd-lined streets. The battalion paraded along Tavern street and on to Butter Market before finishing near the Corn Exchange.

Following the parade The Vikings’ commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Mick Aston said the battalion was hugely proud to take part in the celebrations and were relieved to be home.

He said: “Today has been hugely important for the battalion and means a great deal to us. This is where many of our soldiers come from and this parade means we can connect with the people of Suffolk. This is the end of the fourth tour of duty in a ten year involvement in Afghanistan. The men will be experienced a range of emotions, they will be proud and relieved to be home and they will have a sense of achievement for a job well done.”

Troops will also be marching through Romford today, Diss on Wednesday, Basildon on Thursday and Peterborough on Friday.

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