The Poachers to make homecoming parade through Bedford

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A homecoming parade will be given by The Poachers - The 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment - in Bedford on Tuesday, July 22.

The regiment is also holding a ceremonial parade on Wednesday, June 25, to present soldiers with medals for recent service in Afghanistan.

The Battalion, which recruits from across East Anglia and the East Midlands deployed for one of the final tours of Helmand in September last year. They were heavily involved in training Afghan Security Forces, closing some of the last major bases and protecting the largest base, Camp Bastion.

Pte Loyd Dean, 23, said: “We were responsible for the Force Protection of Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah. That meant protecting the camp whilst everything inside it was taken by helicopter or vehicle back to Camp Bastion.”

“It was weird coming home, one day we were in the deserts of Afghanistan and a couple of days later I was back home.”

The parade will provide the opportunity for those who deployed to be presented with the Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan. This medal recognises the sacrifices and hardships that soldiers endure during operational service.

Some of the soldiers only returned this week. C ‘Northamptonshire and Rutland’ Company has been in Helmand since February. They came home on June 18 having spent the past few months protecting Camp Bastion, conducting missions into the desert and green zone to prevent insurgents getting close to the base.

Whilst plenty of the senior soldiers and Non Commissioned Officers have completed operational tours before for many of the junior soldiers this was their first time serving in Afghanistan. They had to deal with extreme temperatures, uncomfortable living conditions and prolonged absence from friends and family as well as dangers posed by the insurgency.

In July The Poachers will march through Corby, Kettering, Bedford, Cleethorpes, Stevenage and Leicester. These are some of the areas the Battalion recruits from and many of the soldiers originate from these towns. The parades will enable the Battalion to demonstrate its gratitude for support received whilst deployed.

The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nigel Johnson, said: “This is an opportunity for The Poachers to thank the people of our recruiting area for their unswerving support whilst we were in Afghanistan. It also reinforces our links with the towns and communities from which the soldiers hail.”