Crowds cheer bomb disposal experts
Published 16/04/2010 | 16:02
Thousands of people welcomed home 200 bomb disposal experts lauded as heroes for their work in Afghanistan.
The soldiers from the Counter Improvised Explosive Device Task Force (C-IED) were cheered as they marched through the streets of Didcot, Oxfordshire.
The small town came to a standstill for the parade, with shops closing their doors and local firefighters standing outside their station to pay silent tribute to the returning soldiers.
The unit has suffered heavy casualties, with the loss of seven men on this tour.
As a mark of their bravery, the soldiers were presented with Herrick campaign medals in a ceremony at Didcot's Civic Hall.
The crowd broke into a spontaneous round of applause when Sapper Ryan Seary, who suffered serious injuries during the campaign and lost an arm, rose from his wheelchair - evidently with some difficulty - to receive his medal.
Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Tim Stevenson, who presented the award, said in a speech to the troops afterwards: "It is heartening, and indeed humbling, to see a seriously injured member of the task force here.
"His road to recovery will be challenging, but my sense is that, along with the rest of you, he has demonstrated incredible strength of character and enormous courage, and that determination and spirit will help through a period of recuperation.Good luck, if that is what is needed - although I'm sure it is not."
The force has received two George Crosses in the recent Operational Honours - one to Staff Sergeant Kim Hughes and one posthumously to Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, known as Oz.
Major Rob Philipson-Stow, Second-in-Command of the Household Cavalry Regiment Battle Group based in Musa Qal'ah, said of the soldiers: "They are real heroes of this campaign. The way they approach their job is phenomenal."