Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Heroes welcome for returning Iraq battalion



THE families of Hull soldiers gave a heroes' welcome to some of the last troops to return from a six-month tour of duty in Iraq.

Waving banners and cheering loudly, dozens of wives, parents and children gathered to greet their loved ones who have been responsible for mentoring the Iraqi Army and guarding senior British officials.

The troops, from the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, are the final soldiers to return from the British Army's 20th Armoured Brigade, known as The Iron Fist, following last month's ceremonies to end the UK's combat mission in the Iraqi city of Basra.

They arrived at their base in M√ľnster, north Germany, to a sea of colourful hand-painted welcome home banners that had been hung in front of the Battalion's Headquarters in Oxford Barracks, in the outskirts of the picturesque cathedral city.
Reflecting on what they have achieved whilst in Iraq, armoured vehicle driver,
Private Liam Blowman, 30, of east Hull, said the troops had made a real difference.

He said:: "I'm so excited to be back. I'm looking forward to getting out around Germany as much as possible this summer – just to have a good laugh and a few beers.
"We were the protection team for senior British and Iraqi officials. One of my jobs was as a driver for the rest of the platoon.

"It was a bit difficult at times because the roads can be a bit tight. I was in Iraq in 2007 and this time it seemed a bit more stable. You can definitely see the difference in how it was now and then."

Lance Corporal James Clark, 28, of Hull said: "It's just nice to be back now and see the kids and family.

"The kids have grown up so much and changed in the six months that I've been away.

"Now I'm looking forward to sitting down and having a cup of tea in my own home."

The soldiers will enjoy a period of normalisation before completing their homecoming by exercising the freedom of Hull and Beverley, with parades on Thursday, July 23.

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