Show of support for Fusiliers

THE flags will be out as 150 soldiers parade through the streets of Morpeth to celebrate their return from Afghanistan.

The 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers will be welcomed home next week with a march through the town centre.

The parade, which has been organised by Northumberland County Council, marks the end of a seven-month tour of duty for the battalion in Helmand Province, where the Fusiliers were involved in operations, as well as mentoring and training the Afghan Army.

It will take place on Friday, November 22, starting at the Court House at 10am.

The route will go over Telford Bridge to Stanley Terrace, Manchester Street, Newgate Street and Bridge Street, where civic leaders will be assembled.

County Civic Head Kath Nisbet said: “Few of us can properly understand the sacrifices these soldiers make for their country in the line of duty.

“We are particularly proud of our association with the regiment and I hope the local community will turn out in force to welcome the battalion back home and to pay their respects to the soldiers who are serving their country and putting themselves at risk to protect others.”

Morpeth businesses will be making special window displays for the occasion and members of the public are urged to show their support for the soldiers, many of whom come from the region, by turning out on the day.

Roads in the centre of Morpeth will be closed temporarily while the parade is in progress.

There has also been recognition for the 5th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, part of the Army Reserve, after 25 soldiers were presented with Operational Service Medals by Lord James Percy, Honorary Colonel, at a ceremony at Alnwick Castle.

The soldiers served in Afghanistan from October 2012 to March this year.

Among the recipients was Fusilier Thomas Speight, of Morpeth.

Commanding Officer Lt Col Karl Mace said: “I am immensely proud to see the safe return of these brave young men from Afghanistan.

“They have taken 12 months out from their civilian and personal lives to serve Queen and country in dangerous and trying circumstances, but I think it is also important to recognise the significant sacrifices made by their families, assorted loves ones and, in most cases, their civilian employers, all of whom also deserve our gratitude.”

Meanwhile, Northumberland Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson has joined the campaign to save the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers from disbandment.

Coun Jackson has urged Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond to rethink the Government’s planned Army reforms that would see the unit shut down.

The battalion has seen action in every conflict since 1945 and is one of the best recruited in the Army.