Crowds of people lined the streets of Stamford today (Thursday) to mark the homecoming parade of RAF personnel.
RAF Wittering-based 3 Squadron marched through the town and hundreds of people, young and old, turned out to show their support.
During their deployment their main task was to defend Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, the main British military base in the country and the logistic hub for operations in Helmand.
The parade, which was led by the The band of the Royal Air Force Regiment from the college at RAF Cranwell, started in Bath Row and marched through the streets, giving a salute at Red Lion Square, and ended at Station Road.
Among those watching was Kirsty Hampton, 23, and children Kyla, six, Bradley, four and Brandon, two, who applauded as their dad Stewart marched past them.
“It is very emotional,” said Kirsty. “It’s just been a long six months.”
A flag-waving Kyla said she felt “happy” watching her dad marching past because she was “sad when he went away”.
The RAF Wittering-based 3 Squadron returned home on November 2 after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. Their role in the 50 degree heat of Helmand Province in Afghanistan was to defend Camp Bastion, the main British military base in the country and the logistic hub for operations in Helmand.
It included protecting evacuation helicopters and medics as they helped British personnel and Afghan nationals who were injured.
Among those braving the heat and the constant danger was L/Cpl Michael Johnson-Rowe who said he felt “very emotional” at the support shown by the people of Stamford.
The 26-year-old, who has served with 3 Squadron for five years, added: ”When you get a turnout like today, it makes you feel that people appreciate what we did.”
For the group’s commander, Sqn Ldr Mark Raimondo, it had been his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.
“I think I’ve had enough, or at least my wife tells me so,” he said, with a smile.
But added: “Of course, if the service needs me I will go wherever they send me. That’s what I joined up for.”
Sqn Ldr Raimondo said it had been “hot and busy” while they were in Helmand with the “threat there throughout”.
He said: “The area we operated was dangerous, but the situation is much better than when I first went out. We have lost a lot of people and it’s very sad but we have seen the improvement in security with the Afghans now taking control. So, yes, we have made a difference.”
The parade, which started in Bath Row, passed through Red Lion Square where the salute was taken by Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire Tony Worth, Stamford mayor Brian Sumner, Air Commodore Andrew Hall and RAF Wittering Station Commander Grp Cpt Damian Alexander.
It then wound its way along St Mary’s Street where staff from shops came out to wave and applaud.
Outside Sue’s Flower House where two large Union Jacks had been draped on either side of the doorway, a flag-waving owner Sue Gray said: “We wanted to make the effort to support our boys. They have been in Afghanistan going through God knows what and I wanted to show them that we were proud of them.”
Stamford British Legion members Derek Adkins, 72 and wife Valerie, from Peterborough, and Roy Prentice, 86 and Marianne Freeman, 78, from Churchill Road, Stamford, were among the cheerers.
They were all there to “show the airmen their support and respect” said Mr Adkins.
Jenny Chew, 52, from Singapore was holidaying in Stamford and stopped to see the parade.
She said: “It’s right that people should show their respect because they have come back after doing a very difficult job.”