May 21 2013 Latest news:
By DOMINIC BAREHAM
Friday, November 2, 2012
They’ve done us proud – and now it’s our turn to return the favour.
That was the call to arms issued by civic leaders and dignitaries, who urged people from across East Anglia to line the streets and show their support for the homecoming parade of the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment.
Up to 150 Vikings soldiers will march through Diss on Wednesday to receive the freedom of the town in one of five homecoming parades for the regiment, which returned from its latest, and possibly last, tour of duty in Afghanistan in October.
The battalion has completed four operational tours of Afghanistan since its first deployment in Kabul in 2002, with the loss of 16 soldiers and many more wounded.
Norfolk’s High Sheriff Henry Cator and Lord Lieutenant Richard Jewson joined council leaders and MPs in calling on the public to turn out in their thousands to give the soldiers a warm welcome home and honour their sacrifices.
Mr Jewson, who will be attending the Diss parade, said: “I think the parades are very important. I think it is an opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous debt that we owe to our service people who do this important and dangerous work on our behalf.”
Mr Cator said he hoped for fine weather on the day to encourage crowds to come out in force, adding: “I think it is very important to show public support for the people who risk their lives on the front-line to safeguard freedom in this country.”
Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy said while there were a number of organisations and charities, such as the Royal British Legion, involved in supporting the welfare of the soldiers, the homecoming parades were an opportunity for the whole community to show their support.
He added: “I think it is important that they realise the people of Norfolk really appreciate what they do.”
Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, who will also be attending the parade, said: “The Vikings deserve our grateful admiration for their service and sacrifice and this occasion is a very welcome opportunity for the community to thank members of the regiment for all that they do.”
Alison Burgess, co-founder of the Viking Family Support Group, said: “I think it is hugely important and it means so much to not only the soldiers, but their families as well, to see they have the support of the general public.”
Lt Col Mick Aston, the Vikings’ commanding officer, said huge progress had been made during the decade the battalion had spent in Afghanistan. In a message to the public, he said: “We look forward to welcoming you on one of these parades. 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.”
The troops will also be parading through Ipswich, Romford, Basildon and Peterborough.
For full details of the parade route, your messages of support and interviews with two returning home-town heroes from the Diss area, see tomorrow’s EDP.