Town honours two military occasions
HUNDREDS of people lined the streets of Bury St Edmunds yesterday to honour a combined Battle of Britain and RAF Regiment Homecoming parade.
Crowds applauded the 120 gunners of 2 Squadron RAF Honington as they marched from the Abbey Gardens to St Mary’s Church for a service to honour their six-month deployment in Afghanistan and to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
During the service, which was attended by members of the United States Air Force serving at Lakenheath and Mildenhall, the Rev Malcolm Rogers said it was an opportunity to honour and celebrate those serving today and members of the RAF from 70 years ago.
He said: “Today is also tinged with great sadness for colleagues and friends who can’t be with us due to injury or death, including Luke Southgate and Kinikki Griffiths.”
He said their sacrifice would never be forgotten.
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Senior Aircraftman Luke Southgate, of St Olaves Road, Bury, died when a roadside bomb exploded under his Land Rover in February, while Senior Aircraftman Kinikki “Griff” Griffiths was killed in a vehicle accident in July.
Following the service, 90 gunners from 2 Squadron were presented with their Afghanistan Operational Medals on Angel Hill by Group Captain Nick Bray, station commander at RAF Honington.
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He said: “It’s appropriate that on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain that we also remember the RAF contribution to modern operations in Afghanistan.
“These men carried out dangerous and demanding duties and we have seen great bravery and professionalism form every one of them.”
Squadron Leader Matt Carter, the officer commanding 2 Squadron, said he was honoured and proud to be granted the privilege of a parade through Bury and thanked people for their “outstanding support”.
He added: “Every man on the squadron received gift boxes from people in the UK and this level of support provided us with a significant boost to morale.”
Applauding the gunners as they marched to St Mary’s Church was Sam Palmer, 87, who fought on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day landings.
“It’s very important that we show our support for theses lads,” said Mr Palmer, who lives in Risbygate Street.
“I lost so many of my friends and saw so many of my generation killed, so I really feel strongly that we should honour and remember all the young men who go to war and for the sacrifices they make.”
Following the medal ceremony a civic reception was held in the town’s Corn Exchange.