Soldiers back to hugs, tears and kisses
It was the echo of the marching boots resounding off the barracks walls that did it.
Until then, there had been composure among the colourful waiting ranks of families. But when the steady tread sounded and the disciplined lines of men reached the parade ground, the tears flowed.
Corunna company, 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment came home from Afghanistan to Wiltshire soil at Battlesbury Barracks, Warminster, last night and fell into the arms of loved ones.
Waiting relatives stood stoically until Major Ed Colver, officer commanding, gave the order: “To your families, fall out.”
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That was the signal for wives, girlfriends, children, mums, dads and dogs to race across the Tarmac.
But this was a homecoming tempered by tragedy. The company lost six men during their latest six-month tour of Helmand Province in one terrible explosion last March. All present at Battlesbury were feeling the loss as they celebrated others’ safe return.
Addressing his men, Major Colver said: “It has been an extremely tough tour. Be assured that we will remember those who have fallen, but today this is about those who return.” He added: “All of you should be extremely proud of what you have achieved,” and exhorted “every single one” of gathered relatives to look after his men when they got home.
Among the reunions, one was especially poignant. Five years ago Sally Veck lost her 19-year-old Army medic daughter Eleanor Dlugosz, who grew up at Wellington in Somerset. She was on hand as “stand in mum” to welcome home Eleanor’s best friend, fellow medic Victoria Bruce, 23. The proud mum blinked back tears as she hugged the young woman and said: “I am so delighted to be able to stand in as Vicky’s mum today. She is in Scotland and cannot be here. Five years ago on April 5, 2007, I lost my daughter and we have stayed the best of friends.”
Jade Fennell, 21, from Dewesbury in Yorkshire, and Lynn Eyles, 33, also from Yorkshire, could not wait to meet their fiancés. Jade will marry Gunner Lewis Dixon, 24, in three weeks’ time and Lynn will marry Sergeant John Bidski, 36, on October 6.