THERE were plenty of emotional moments today as the latest group of soldiers returned home but it was extra special for two little babies.

Five-week-old Cade Mason saw his father, Private Pete Mason, for only the second time, while four-month-old Isabella Wood met her dad, Private Gary Wood, for the first time.

Pte Wood, 28, who also had a big kiss for his girlfriend Jenni Robinson, said: “It was really nerve-racking getting off the bus.

“I’m just starting to understand that I’m a father.

“I have seen pics of her on Facebook, but it’s weird seeing her for the first time.”

Seventy-five soldiers from 23 Pioneer Regiment, part of the Royal Logistic Corps, flew into RAF Brize Norton today from Afghanistan. They travelled to St David’s Barracks, in Ambrosden, where they were welcomed by hundreds of family and friends. There were also 35 soldiers who had returned from Cyprus.

Cade and his mum Sam Wiley, 22, of Bicester, waited anxiously for Pte Mason.

She said: “It’s so great to see him. I worry so much about him – I haven’t watched the news for six months.

“This is the only the second time he has seen Cade. Tonight we’re just going to spend time with each other.”

Pte Mason, 31, said: “It’s been very hard away from Cade, but you just have to get on with it.”

Keri Haynes, 11, from Ambrosden, was waiting for her father Steven, a corporal, holding a balloon in the shape of a heart with ‘Love You Dad’ written on it.

She said: “I have missed him telling me off and tidying my room. I’m going to give him lots of kisses and hugs.”

The troops, mostly from 206 Pioneer Squadron, were operating a fleet of Mastiff armoured troop carriers in Helmand. Welfare officer Capt Sue Doran said there had been no deaths, just “knocks and bruises”.

A further group of Pioneers will return home later this month after they have familiarised their replacements with the Mastiff vehicles.

Hundreds of residents are expected to line Bicester’s streets on Saturday, November 28, when the Pioneers will march through the town in a homecoming parade.

* Ex-servicemen will pay their respects to Acting Serjeant Stuart McGrath, 28, of 2nd Battalion, the Rifles, who was killed in Afghanistan last week, by lining Headley Way outside Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital tomorrow when the cortege carrying his body arrives at 3pm.