There were cheers and tears as heroes marched back on North East soil for homecoming parades after returning from Afghanistan.
Yesterday crowds lined the streets of Morpeth and Newcastle to welcome 180 soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
The soldiers first proudly paraded through Morpeth where they set off from Castle Square then marched on to Castle Bank, Bridge Street, Damside, Stanley Terrace, Well Way, Manchester Street, Newgate Street and Bridge Street before returning via Castle Bank.
They then moved on to Newcastle, where supporters waving Union Jack flags showed them the warmth of the city.
They started off at Newcastle Civic Centre in St Mary’s Place, then marched on to Barras Bridge, Percy Street, Blackhill Square, Eldon Square, Northumberland Street and John Dobson Street before returning to the Civic Centre.
Drum major Craig Henaghan, 35, from Tynemouth, led the parade through Newcastle.
He said “I have been a fusilier for 18 years and I was so proud leading the march through the city. Newcastle is a big city and the crowds were loud and friendly. It was a very proud moment for me.”
Jack Grange, 19, of Prudhoe, Northumberland, joined the fusiliers six months ago. “I have not had the chance to go out to Afghanistan, but I am supporting them in the march today,” he said.
The homecoming came only days after fellow fusiliers vowed to regroup and fight on after a rebellion by back-bench Tory MPs failed to halt Government cuts to the army.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond can plough on with his programme to disband 20,000 regulars after an amendment to his controversial forces restructure was shot down in the Commons. The 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, which recruits 100 regular soldiers from the region, is one of the units under threat of closure.
IT worker Colin Anderson, 49, of North Shields, turned out to watch the parade. He said: “I was in the 2nd Battalion of Fusiliers between 1982 and 1986. They do a brilliant job and I have big-time respect for these guys.
“This is bringing back a lot of memories for me, just to see them in good spirits and so proud. I’m glad that they got back safe from Afghanistan.”
The First Fusiliers battlegroup has completed its six-month deployment to Nahr-e Saraj District in central Helmand on Operation Herrick 18. Its role, stationed in Main Operating Base PRICE, has been to support the transition of security responsibility from International Security Assistance Force to Afghan National Security Forces.