Back our troops at parade through Oakham following homecoming from Afghanistan

PEOPLE are being urged to line the streets of Oakham on Thursday to welcome home troops returning from Afghanistan.

Soldiers from 11 (Sphinx) Battery and 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, based at St George’s Barracks in North Luffenham, will parade to mark their return from a six-month tour of Afghanistan. The 104 Military Working Dogs Unit will also be represented.

The parade of 70 troops will start in Northgate at 10am. They will march along Northgate Road into the High Street and to Oakham Castle, where the soldiers will be awarded their campaign medals.

People are invited to line the route to give the troops a warm welcome home.

11 Battery Commander Major Shaun Lamb said: “I hope the people of Oakham will join with the soldiers’ families and friends to line the High Street to give the troops a thunderous reception and show their support – they certainly deserve it.

“We are extremely grateful for all the support the community has shown over this period and very much appreciate the opportunity to mark our return with this event.”

Rutland County Council chairman Edward Baines, Lord Lieutenant of Rutland Dr Laurence Howard and Oakham mayor Joyce Lucas are among the invited guests.

Mr Baines said: “Rutland is delighted and honoured to be able to show our appreciation for all that our servicemen do for us.

“I hope that there will be large and enthusiastic crowds to welcome them because they certainly do deserve that sort of reception.”

Dr Howard added: “The men and women from 16 Regiment Royal Artillery are returning from an arduous tour and we owe them the honour of the freedom to march through Oakham.

“We welcome them with open arms and as many as are able should turn out on the day to give them the welcome they so richly deserve.”

Members of the 16 Regiment Royal Artillery will receive their medals at Oakham Castle. The 45 troops from the 104 Military Working Dogs Unit and four RAF police dog handlers received their medals in a ceremony at the base, which took place in April only a week after they returned from Afghanistan.

The unit also received a citation, the only commander’s commendation given during the most recent tour of Afghanistan.

The family of L/Cpl Liam Tasker, who was killed while on foot patrol near Camp Bastion in March, were there to receive his medal. L/Cpl Tasker’s dog Theo died of a seizure on the same day.

During the campaign, known as Operation Herrick, the Joint Battery was responsible for the operation of the force protection systems at Camp Bastion and Kandahar while 16 Regiment Royal Artillery provided low level air defence over the battlefield. 104 Military Working Dog Unit provided protection and search capabilities as well as helping to clear routes, buildings and vehicles.