Soldiers welcomed home from Afghanistan with parade through Saffron Walden
- Credit: Archant
TROOPS returning from Afghanistan were given a heroes welcome as people lined the streets of Saffron Walden.
Members of 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) and 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (EOD), based at Carver Barracks in Wimbish, paraded through the town accompanied by the Prince of Wales Marching Division Band today (Sunday).
The occasion officially marked the return of 21 Fd Sqn (EOD) from Operation Herrick 17.
It was also held to recognise the disbanding of 49 Fd Sqn (EOD) and the formation of 821 EOD and Search Sqn (RLC).
The troops began their march at the offices of Uttlesford District Council on London Road at about 1pm, before passing the War Memorial at the top of the high street as applause rang out from about 75 people. Soldiers then made their way to the market square, where crowds of people turned out to welcome them home.
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One onlooker, ex-serviceman John Bullen, of Upsheres, Saffron Walden, said: “I support the regiment and you do support your troops – that is the important thing.”
And Judy Banks, of Rowntree Way, was delighted to be able to watch the parade as she has been at work in the past.
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She told the Reporter: “They normally do the welcome home parades on a Friday so I hang out of my window to watch.
“But they are marvellous. The soldiers are doing a wonderful job.”
Frances Shepherd, of Goddard Way, hoped the servicemen would feel “appreciated” by people turning out to support them but was disappointed by the numbers on the high street.
The 60-year-old said: “Unfortunately there are not as many people here as there has been in the past. Last time we were here it was packed.”
Addressing the troops at the ceremony in the market square, chairman of the district council, Cllr Eric Hicks, said: “As chairman of Uttlesford District it gives me immense pleasure to represent the council on an occasion such as this.
“It is wonderful to be able to be part of this and to share the experience with the army.”
Commanding officer of 33 Engineer Regiment, Lt Col Eldon Miller, told the crowd: “I would like to thank you all for coming out in support of the squadron and the friends and family of our servicemen.
“Almost 4,500 people came to our open day at Carver Barracks yesterday and this gave us a chance to show what we do day-to-day.”
The soldiers later marched to St Mary’s Church for a service.
Speaking to the Reporter outside the church, Lt Col Miller added: “It is fantastic. It always is here. There is a huge amount of support both in Saffron Walden and Uttlesford.”
Eighty five soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force in Helmand province.
Working in teams, and at great risk, soldiers from Carver Barracks were responsible for finding and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) as well as conventional munitions.
When asked about the dangerous job his troops do, Lt Col Miller said he “considered himself a very fortunate man to be working with men who are very well trained”.
The parade was a culmination of events at Carver Barracks this weekend. An open day was held at the Wimbish base yesterday (Saturday) as a public “thank you” to the residents of Uttlesford for their support.
It ran from 11.30am-4pm and had displays, stalls and attractions for all the family.
There was an air display, military working dogs, an armoured fighting vehicle, the Royal Engineers’ air balloon, a children’s assault course, bouncy castles, a remote controlled vehicle and night vision goggle mazes.