REGIMENTAL pride was in full force as soldiers from north Northumberland marched to their ancestral home at the weekend, to be awarded medals for service in Afghanistan.
Since May last year, 27 Territorial Army volunteers from Fifth Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (5RRF) have been working alongside their Regular Army counterparts in the war-torn state, as part of Operation Herrick 15.
And on Sunday – coinciding with the regiment’s traditional St George’s Day parade – they returned to Alnwick, flying full colours, to receive the Operational Service Medal (OSM) Afghanistan in front of top brass, with Honorary Colonel Lord James Percy officiating.
He was accompanied by Northumberland Area Colonel Simon Marr MBE and retired Major General Ronald ‘Dare’ Wilson CBE MC DL MA, who many regard as a legendary figure in the county for his remarkable service with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers during the Second World War.
Together, they took the salute from a dias on Bondgate Within as the men – led by the regimental band – marched through the town centre, supported by local Army Cadets and veteran servicemen, on their way to Alnwick Castle.
Following a drumhead service led by Captain Peter Turnbull, who is Padre to 5 RRF, medals were presented in the Outer Bailey by Lord James.
Among those receiving the OSM were Alnwick-based Z-Company Fusiliers Ross Davison and Damian Rowell who, in civilian life, both work at a paintballing range near Felton.
Giving the citation, Adjutant for 5RRF Captain Dale Smith said: “Drawn from all four companies of the Battalion, these individuals joined the 2 Mercian and 5 Rifles Battle Groups as well as working directly for the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. All 27 soldiers have now safely returned from theatre, 14 of whom are on parade today with the remainder currently in Cyprus – they will be reunited with their families early this week.
“The soldiers who deployed with the 2 Mercian Battle Group deployed to Southern Afghanistan and were involved in a wide variety of tasks. The overarching mission of the Battle Group was to mentor the Afghan National Army, working in the Nad Ali and Nar E Shiraz districts.
“With A Company, Fusiliers Davison and Rowell were based at Check Points Zarawa-Salang and Chanjeer-Kamiabi-Salang where they conducted ground-domination patrols, reassurance to the local population and strike operations.
“It is fitting that our soldiers receive recognition for their efforts on operations and today is made more special by being the regimental birthday. I think I speak on behalf of everyone present today thank you for your efforts, we greatly appreciate your commitment and selfless dedication to the ongoing work in the most testing of environments.
“I know all of these soldiers were employed in a highly dangerous environment and where regularly in contact with a determined enemy.”
Capt Smith added: “To the families and loved-ones of those deployed, we recognise that without your support the challenge would have been significantly greater . For many of you, the last year will have been a real challenge for your steadfast support we are truly thankful.”
The soldiers and their families were treated to a special reception at the castle following the ceremony.
OPERATIONAL SERVICE MEDAL (AFGHANISTAN) RECIPIENTS