Gallery: Cheers as RAF squadron parades through Bury St Edmunds

CHEERING crowds lined the streets to give gunners from 1 Squadron RAF Regiment a heroes’ welcome to their home town.

CHEERING crowds lined the streets to give gunners from 1 Squadron RAF Regiment a heroes’ welcome to their home town.

Union flags were waved high as the RAF Honington-based regiment took part in a homecoming parade in Bury St Edmunds after a six-month tour of Afghanistan.

Mary Jones, 76, joined hundreds of supporters on Angel Hill on Saturday to show her support for the returning troops.

“The boys have been out there working hard,” she said.

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“It’s wonderful to think people turn out to welcome them home.

“I am sure it gives them a boost to know people are supporting them.”

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The Central Band of the Royal Air Force marched ahead of the squadron as they paraded through the Abbey Gate, which had been reopened following recent structural damage especially for the event.

Group Captain Andy Hall, station commander at RAF Honington, took the salute from the 130 gunners on Angel Hill with Ian Houlder, Mayor of St Edmundsbury.

Rob Sadler, 33, brought his daughter Ellie, four, along to see the parade.

“They are doing a good job out there so we wanted to support them,” he said.

Streets were brought to a standstill and shoppers applauded as the troops marched up Abbeygate Street and into the Arc shopping development before enjoying a reception in the Apex.

Senior aircraftman Rikki Legg, 20, said: “It is great being home. It was a challenging tour. It is amazing to see so many people turn up to support us.”

Now back in training after a seven-week break, the gunners are starting to readjust to life at home.

But thoughts were also turned towards senior aircraftmen Kinikki Griffiths and Scott Hughes, both of whom died during the recent operation.

Grp Capt Hall said community support had bolstered the troops.

“It has been a tough tour for 1 Squadron,” he said. “It is reassuring to have the community standing shoulder to shoulder with us.

“For Bury to put itself out like this helps them mark a period in their own minds that they are back.

“It makes every bit of difference.”

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