Gallery: Delight as Suffolk gunners return home
SCREAMS of delight and roaring cheers greeted Suffolk gunners returning home to loved ones after a gruelling tour of Afghanistan.
Tearful families rushed forward as members of Number 2 Squadron RAF Regiment finally arrived home at RAF Honington tonight.
The 140 gunners have spent the past six months patrolling Kandahar Airfield, facing daily threats from insurgents and losing one of their comrades in a bomb blast.
Sgt Dougie Buckley from Thetford was thrilled to be reunited with his wife, Emma, daughter Ellie, 10 months and son, Ben, three.
“Words can’t describe how I feel,” he said. “I have been looking forward to this for a long time.
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“It is absolutely amazing to see the children.”
Banners and flags filled the aircraft hangar at the base as families waited anxiously for their heroes to arrive.
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But joyful reunions were marred by the tragic death of Senior Aircraftman Luke Southgate, from Bury St Edmunds, who was killed just days before his 21st birthday when a roadside bomb exploded under his Land Rover in February.
Senior Aircraftman Kinikki Griffiths of Number 1 squadron RAF Regiment, also based at Honington, was also killed in a vehicle accident near Camp Bastion in Helmand province on Friday.
Welcoming the boys back home, Group Capt Nick Bray, officer commanding at RAF Honington, paid tribute to the squadron’s resilience.
“It is great to see them back after a very tough, demanding but successful tour,” he said.
A memorial service is being planned at the base today, to allow friends and comrades to remember the SAC Southgate, who was described as ‘happy, compassionate and fiercely loyal to his friends, who consider themselves lucky to have known him’.
Sqn Ldr Matt Carter MC, who was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in 2007, was relieved to see his troops return home after a difficult six months.
Greeted by his wife, Ali, sons Jack and Harry and daughter, Molly, who he last saw when she was just two months old, Sqn Ldr Carter said he was proud of every one of his troops.
“It is a worry for the whole six months because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
“To come home is a massive relief.
“I am really proud of these guys as they have achieved so much.”