1st Battalion The Royal Welsh reunited with families

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh Regiment have returned home after a six-month tour in Afghanistan, during which they lost two comrades.

The 80 soldiers were re-united with their families at Dale Barracks in Chester.

During the tour, Capt Stephen Healey, 29, died in a vehicle blast and Cpl Michael Thacker, 27, was shot.

Under UK government plans, the battalion will merge with the 2nd Royal Welsh, currently based in Wiltshire.

It has yet to be announced where the two battalions will be based after the merger.

Commanding officer Lt Col Stephen Webb said it had been a "successful tour", but not without sacrifice.

He added that families and the members of the wider community had provided fantastic support and had sent parcels to the troops.

The soldiers' sons and daughters sacrificed their Halloween trick or treating on Wednesday night to be reunited with their fathers.

Cpl Anthony Wilson, from Llanelli, said he was "elated" to see his wife and four children.

"It's my boy's 21st birthday tomorrow. It's just fantastic to be home. It's the best feeling in the world," he said.

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Media caption"The wet weather was not going to dampen the spirits of the families"

For Katie Luke seeing her father Maj Owen Luke, from Abergavenny, was a great fourth birthday present.

Maj Luke said it was "fantastic to be home".

In May, Capt Stephen Healey died when his vehicle was caught in a blast in Helmand province.

Third tour

He had been an apprentice at Swansea City football club before being commissioned into 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh (Royal Welch Fusiliers).

In August, a memorial football match was held in Cardiff in his honour when his old team, Llanrumney FC, reunited and his brother took his captain role.

In June, Cpl Michael John Thacker was shot while on duty at observation post in Nahr-e Saraj.

He went to Fairwater High School in Cwmbran before joining the 1st Battalion in 2004.

He lived in Coventry with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Cpl Thacker was on his third tour of Afghanistan when he was shot on 1 June.

After his death his wife, Catherine, said: "Michael was the love of my life.

"He was an amazing husband and father who will always be remembered as a funny, loving and kind man.

"Everyone who met Mike instantly liked him and through time came to love him."

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