Troops parade through Portsmouth

13/07/09

Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Sykes
First Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment

Several hundred members of the public gathered in Porstmouth's Guildhall Square on Monday lunchtime to watch a march by troops from the First Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

Two hundred troops who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan took part in the parade.

Captain Jay Smith from the First Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, said: "We've not formed up and marched here since 1992. So it's quite a big day for us."

There's relief these soldiers are home safe but there's also sadness, the parade coming the week after UK forces suffered their worst casualties in a 24-hour period in Afghanistan.

Eight soldiers were killed. Three were 18.

One woman watched the soldiers parade through the streets of Portsmouth.

"They're only a few years younger than me myself," she said.

"You look at it and you think, 'Oh. I'm 23, they're 18 and they've just given their life for my country and for me really'.

"My brother serves out in the Marines at the moment and he's obviously not here to take part in the parade.

"So we decided to welcome home these ones instead."

Casualties

Five men from Second Battalion The Rifles died in a double roadside bombing attack.

Soldier from First Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment
The medal bearer lowers his head during a minute's silence

Eighteen-year-old rifleman Joseph Murphy from Castle Bromwich was carrying his injured 20-year-old colleague Daniel Simpson to safety after the first blast, when a second explosion killed them both.

Rifleman William Aldridge was one of the youngest soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

He also died, along with rifleman James Backhouse and Corporal Jonathan Horne.

Three others were killed in the same 24 hours elsewhere in Helmand Province.

All of them died as British forces continued their role in a major push against the Taliban, called Operation Panther's Claw.

Captain Jay Smith from the First Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, said troops in Afghanistan wouldn't lose their resolve.

"They will focus on that job, and they will go out there and they will do that job and nothing is going to stop them doing it."

Over the weekend, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown spoke in support of the war against the Taliban.