Ipswich/Suffolk: The Royal Anglian’s commanding officer invites the public to join the Homecoming Parade

THE Commanding Officer of the Vikings, Lt Col Mick Aston has written this letter encouraging people to support the homecoming parades next month:

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

In late October the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, nicknamed The Vikings, will return from its fourth operational tour of Afghanistan.

With the end of combat operations set for 2014, this Afghanistan tour is planned to be the last in which the Vikings will take part; so the Battalion’s return on this occasion is expected to be our final homecoming.

From the first deployment to Kabul in 2002, just months after the attack on the World Trade Centre, to this latest tour of Helmand Province, the Vikings have played a wide ranging and important role in bringing lasting peace and security to this troubled part of the World.

Over the course of a decade, in spite of the many difficulties faced along the way, and thanks to the courage and determination of our young men and women, huge progress has been made.

Fittingly, this fourth tour will culminate with the handover of security responsibility in the Battalion’s area, not to another British unit, but to the Afghan Army and Police.

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Sadly, as you will be well aware, this progress has come at a heavy price.

On this tour another young Viking made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country, bringing the total number from the Battalion killed in Afghanistan since 2002 to 16; and many more have been wounded, some grievously.

Over the last ten years we, as your County Infantry Regiment, have been fortunate to have received the unwavering and exceptional support of the people of our home counties in East Anglia.

To express our thanks for this remarkable support and to celebrate our return, the Battalion will hold five homecoming parades in our home counties in early November.

So perhaps you could spare a few minutes of your time to join us and cheer the boys on as they march proudly past with drums beating, bands playing, Colours flying and bayonets fixed.

I know they will really appreciate your support.

Mick Aston.