Oakham says thank you to the returning heroes

HUNDREDS lined the streets of Oakham to welcome troops back from Afghanistan.

A parade of 70 soldiers from 11 (Sphinx) Battery and 16 Regiment Royal Artillery from St George’s Barracks in North Luffenham marched up the High Street yesterday to rapturous applause from the watching public.

The 104 Military Working Dogs Unit was also represented as the soldiers headed to Oakham Castle to receive their medals.

People of all ages turned out to enjoy the bright sunshine and show their appreciation.

Nicola Cross, 30, came from Melton to see her fiancé in the parade.

She said: “It’s important that the public comes down and local support is great.

“My fiancé missed Christmas and new year on the tour so it’s really good to have him back.”

Mike Grant’s son Tim is a door gunner with the Army Air Corps in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

He came to Oakham with family and members of the Rutland branch of the Harley Davidson Owners’ Club.

He said: “We do what we can to support the troops, especially the local ones.

“I know my son appreciates it when he gets home.”

Rosemary Whalley, from Uppingham, has two grandchildren serving in the forces.

She said: “It’s very important to come and support all the troops.

“We have to show them that we care.

“This is the first time I have been able to come down but I know how it feels to have relatives serving.”

And Allan Stevens, 55, of Fitzwilliam Road, Oakham, has a son in the RAF.

He said: “I don’t usually get the chance to go and see my son’s parades so I wanted to come down today.”

Arthur Giles, 72, is a liaison representative for the 11 (Sphinx) Battery and served in Singapore in the 1960s as a 40/70 light anti aircraft gunner.

He said: “It’s good for people to show their appreciation and respect for the troops and what they do all over the world.

“They do their jobs very well.”

Many of the watchers come down to the parades regularly.

Marion Helsdon, 64, from Lindon Road, Oakham, was there with her husband Terry, 61.

She said: “The troops deserve to be watched and supported for what they do for us.

“It’s good that the weather is nice but we would have stood in the rain.”

And ex- serviceman Martin Duncan, 75, of Beech Road, Oakham, said: “It’s good to show appreciation for the troops, I come down whenever possible.

“I spent nine years in Northern Ireland so I know what they are going through.

“We have to look after one another.”

But plenty of people had turned out for the first time.

Ross McKie, 35, of Blackthorne Close, Oakham, brought his whole family to watch.

He said: “I don’t normally get the chance to see the parades because of work, but I have a week off so thought I would bring the family down.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

Vicki Taylor, 40, from Frisby, came to Oakham to view a house but got swept up by the atmosphere.

She said: “It’s fab. It’s great to show them how proud we are.”

Chairman of Rutland County Council Edward Baines praised everyone who made the effort to come and watch.

He said: “It’s a tremendous show of support.

“It is heartening that the Rutland public have turned out in such numbers.”