Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
Princess Anne pays tribute to soldiers from 11EOD on parade in Didcot + Audio
Buy this photo » Troops from the 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment march through Didcot yesterday,
THOUSANDS of people joined Princess Anne on the streets of Didcot to welcome home Army bomb disposal experts.
Families and friends were reunited with their loved ones from the town’s 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment and the UK-wide Search Task Force, who returned from Afghanistan after six months as part of Operation Herrick 18.
The 280-strong regiment and task force were applauded by residents waving British flags as they paraded through the town, flanked by the Royal Logistic Hall brass band from Aldershot.
This is the last time the 11 EOD will return from Afghanistan, as British troops are gradually being pulled out of the country.
Their return came just hours after troops from 3 Logistic Support Regiment returned to Dalton Barracks after a tour of duty in Afghanistan. In Didcot yesterday, Princess Anne presented 120 troops from the town’s regiment and the task force with medals at the Civic Hall to mark their first tour of duty.
She said: “It is very clear that progress is being made and I would like to thank you all for the part you have played in this.”
She also paid tribute to the families who have been parted from their loved ones.
“It is a difficult time for families and friends, but it is appreciated by us all,” she said.
“I would also like to thank the residents of Didcot and the surrounding area for their long-standing and heart-felt support of the EOD regiment.”
After Princess Anne’s speech, the soldiers were reunited with their friends and family.
- Listen to Lt Col McRae
One of those who enjoyed an emotional homecoming was Abubakar Swalah, who was greeted by his wife Salam and two-year-old daughter Amira.
Mr Swalah was the only serving Muslim in the regiment and fasted for Ramadan while on duty – meaning he drank and ate nothing daylight hours.
He said: "It is very hard being away from your family for so long. “It was especially tough for me because of Ramadan and it was so hot out there and we were working 18 hours a day.”
The 26-year-old, who is with the task force but will start training with the 11 EOD in December, said: “Having my family in the back of my mind helped me a lot.
“It was a great experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Abingdon resident Lieutenant Colonel Adam McRae, commanding officer of 11 EOD, said: “As a community, Didcot have really taken to the regiment.
“The fact they feel valued by the people they live in the community with is essential. It was a great reception and to do the medal parade with the Princess Royal is exactly how I wanted it to be.”
Didcot resident and ex-forces Paul Lawrence, 71, said: “They deserve all the support they get. I know what it’s like having fought in the Gulf War.
“What they do is very brave.”
Lavinia Knott, 35, a resident from Didcot, said: “I think it’s great they are being honoured.
“I couldn’t do what they do. They put their life on the line for us every day and being out there is something I can’t even comprehend.
“If they make a mistake, it could be catastrophic.
Councillor for Didcot East and Hagbourne Patrick Greene said: “This has been a very important day for Didcot. It has been a well organised parade and the turnout has been excellent.”
Vauxhall Barracks in Foxhall Road is the headquarters of 11 EOD.
- The Price family and Debbie Birkbeck at the homecoming of 3 Logistic Support
Comments are closed on this article.