Soldiers spoke of their pride at parading through their home city of Sheffield to mark the end of a gruelling tour in Afghanistan.
Troops from the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery were applauded by crowds of people – some of who were moved to tears or waved flags in support – as they marched through the city centre in their homecoming yesterday.
A band and marching horses pulling two artillery guns from the ceremonial King’s Troop also paraded for the first time since 1974 to marked the end of a decade of the regiment’s service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cyprus.
Bombardier Matt Foster was hoping to see his children Josh, eight, and two-year-old Maisie at the end of the emotional event.
The 28-year-old, originally from Manor Top in Sheffield, but now living in Penistone, said: “It was one of those things when you get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.
“I have done two tours now, it’s difficult in parts and you do get your down days, but all the lads come together and help you out. We are helping the locals out there. When something goes wrong they come to us.”
Gunner Glenn Tasker – whose distant grandfather John Tasker was the Mayor of Sheffield in 1875 – was surrounded by beaming relatives outside Sheffield Town Hall.
The 19-year-old followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by joining the military when he left school, starting in the 29 Commando Regiment.
He said: “I’m proud of the regiment and I feel good to have taken part.
“I haven’t done a tour of Afghanistan, but that is why I joined the Army so I hope to do that at some point.”
His mum Christine Tasker, of Waterthorpe, said: “I was so excited, especially as I haven’t seen him since Christmas. We are all very proud.
“It wouldn’t have been my choice for him to go into the military – I hoped he would break the mould – but we are very supportive.”
The soldiers also posed for a regiment photograph on the stairwell inside Sheffield Town Hall.
Bombardier James Gordon, of Killamarsh, said: “Today was a proud moment.
“We have very strong links with Sheffield and I have done a few parades here after operations. It is great to come back and see family and friends as well as everybody who supports us.
“When you’re out there you have got to concentrate on getting the job done. We are like a family and pull each other through.”
Mum Alison Gordon, aged 50, said: “I had a cry, and I wasn’t able to eat my breakfast because of the nerves and excitement.”
And dad Dave said: “We worry about him when he is away on operations but we know that’s what he wants to do and he loves it.”
The regiment will parade in Doncaster on Friday.