DOZENS of soldiers - including some from the Fylde coast - have been greeted by family and friends as they returned home from Afghanistan in time for Christmas.
The 70 troops from Burma Company of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (1 LANCS) are the first batch of personnel to return from Helmand Province as part of the Government’s decision to reduce the British commitment in Afghanistan by 500 soldiers.
They arrived at their base at a freezing Catterick Garrison, in North Yorkshire, late Friday.
Sgt Rob McCormack, 27, also from Lancashire, said: “The troops are generally happy about going home, however they still have friends out here so sometimes they have the feeling that they want to stay with them.”
1 LANCS are part of Task Force Helmand which is currently led by the British Army’s 4th Mechanized Brigade, known as The Black Rats.
The Army said the soldiers have returned as their patrol base has been closed and the Afghan Uniformed Police have taken responsibility for the region.
They were based at Patrol Base Nahidullah in the Lashkar Gah district where their role was to advise, train and support the police.
Nahidullah is the first base of its size shut in Task Force Helmand’s Area of Operations.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced last year that 500 British personnel would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.
Former colleagues on the Fylde coast were quick to welcome the soldiers home.
Sgt Rick Clement, who lost his legs in a bomb attack in Afghanistan, said: “They are from my regiment, so I’m chuffed they’re coming back and their family will be able to know they are safe. They’ve been away for a while so they’ll be glad to be getting out of it.
“I pretty much know all of the soldiers who are returning, I’ll probably nip up see them for Christmas once they’re settled. They can have a really good Christmas with their family now.
“Obviously when they first get back they’ll be relaxing over Christmas and the new year, then they’ll go back to work, ready for the next task or operation.”
Jack Swann from the Fylde Ex-Service Liaison Committee, representing the Blackpool Royal Engineers Association, said: “We have known the troops were going to be coming home eventually, but this is very good indeed especially with the timing at Christmas.”
The returning troops are now going on leave. They will then provide support the battle groups deploying to Afghanistan in April 2013.
This is when the rest of Burma Company will return to the UK.