Dereham celebrates Light Dragoons in homecoming parade

Thousands of people lined the streets of Dereham to mark the regiment's safe return to Norfolk

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Soldiers from the Light Dragoons have celebrated being given the freedom of a Norfolk town with a homecoming march supported by thousands of spectators.

The regiment, based at Swanton Morley, was awarded the freedom of Dereham following their tour of Afghanistan.

Lt Col Sam Plant said the event meant "the world" and the regiment's support from the town was "very, very special".

The parade, supported by the Parachute Regiment band and a flypast, was followed by a service of thanksgiving.

Commanding officer Col Plant added: "These parades are an opportunity for people to show their gratitude and, just importantly, its an opportunity for us to show our gratitude to them.

"It really helps coming to terms with the business of what we do as professional soldiers."

'Recognise their bravery'

The event also paid tribute to Sgt Lee Davidson, 32, from Thorne, near Doncaster, who was killed in September when his armoured vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand.

Freedom of Dereham

The Light Dragoons were granted the Honorary Freedom of the Town of Dereham in November allowing them to march through the town "with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed".

Freedom is an ancient tradition granted to military organisations, dating back to Roman times.

It was only in 2009 town councils like Dereham were allowed to grant this honour.

During the regiment's six-month tour in Helmand Province, they were responsible for disturbing Afghanistan insurgents to give more time and support for Afghan security to get established.

William Nunn, Conservative leader of Breckland District Council, said: "We forget these young men and women do so much for all of us in the country.

"I think it's key we show our support collectively and recognise their bravery."

People started lining the Dereham parade route from about 09:00 GMT, two hours before the event got under way. Spectators said the event was "absolutely brilliant" and "more emotional than you'd think".

The Light Dragoons moved to Roberston Barracks at Swanton Morley in 2000.

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