Emotions run high as our soldiers return from Afghanistan

Reporter:

Laura Jones

IT was a momentous occasion for Fusilier Danny Hughes, from Buckley, as he saw his new-born son Alfie for the very first time.

Danny said that the emotional meeting brought tears to his eyes when he held his son, who was born on Christmas Day to his partner Jennifer Chung, just a few weeks after he was deployed to Helmand.

He said: “He’s a lot bigger than I imagined and there were a few tears today when I met him for the first time and when I saw my girlfriend.”

The former Elfed High School pupil, who has been in the army for two years, was part of the ground holding group who secured villages across in Helmand Province and made the area safe for villagers again. Apart from missing his son and Jennifer, who he plans to marry in August, Danny said he also missed his bed. He said: “The patrol base was okay but there were some very unpleasant living conditions at times. I have missed my bed after living on the floor.”

More than 120 soldiers of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh returned home from Afghanistan to Chester yesterday morning for an emotional reunion with family and friends.

Elements of D and A Companies arrived at Dale Barracks, on Liverpool Road, Upton yesterday, with the entire battalion of more than 500 men scheduled to be back in the UK this week.

A dawn march marked the end of what has been hailed as a “highly successful tour” of Afghanistan.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Lock, Commanding Officer for The Royal Welsh, was among the soldiers returning home.

He praised his battle group for completing what he called a “very positive tour”.

He said: “We have been heavily involved in Operation Moshtarak, which has been the key operation so far this year in southern Afghanistan. The aim of the operation was to clear the central belt of Helmand Province of overt Taliban and we conducted a large aviation assault operation - the largest since the first Gulf War - with a 1,200-man force of The Royal Welsh, an Afghan National Army battalion, an
Estonian company and other force elements.”

During their tour the group’s most notable success was the biggest bomb find in UK history in Afghanistan.

They unearthed 124 IEDs (improvised explosive devices or roadside bombs), 11 rocket propelled grenade warheads, 425kg of homemade explosives, various chemicals for making explosives, IED making manuals, battery packs and detonators along with insurgent documentation and other bomb equipment.

The haul was uncovered over the first seven days of the operation and hailed as a “huge triumph” in the war effort.

Another major find was made a few weeks later by B Company who found component parts capable of making 53 IEDs under a pile of dried poppy stalks.

The battle group, who were deployed in mid December, worked as an aviation assault battle group and carried out a number of operations into the insurgent held areas of northern Nad-e Ali District.

However the group come home without one of their comrades, Fusilier Jonathan Burgess, 3 Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, who was killed by a gunshot wound following a small arms engagement in the Nad ‘Ali area of Helmand province on April 7.

See full story in the Leader

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