TWO soldiers returning from Afghanistan have been presented with their campaign medals by the Duke of York.
Lance Corporal Christopher Hancock, aged 21, and Trooper Mark Russell, 23, both from Chesterfield, have just served six months in the war zone with the 9th/12th Royal Lancers.
Prince Andrew, who is Colonel-in-Chief of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, presented medals to members of the unit during a ceremony at their home barracks in Hohne in northern Germany.
He then attended a specially-arranged reception with military personnel and their families.
Former Hasland Hill Community Hill School student Christopher, who also took part in a specially arranged guard of honour for His Royal Highness in full ceremonial uniform, regularly took part in foot and vehicle patrols on reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan.
He said: “The foot patrols were particularly hard with the heat and all the kit we carried. They were really difficult but enjoyable. I saw a lot of the country.
“We would visit the Afghan National Army at various checkpoints and embed with them on patrols, mentoring and teaching them skills, with the aim of giving them a lot more confidence about what they needed to do.”
Christopher, who joined the Army in 2007 and also served in Iraq in 2008, added: “It’s terrific getting my medal from the Duke of York and a very proud moment to be part of the official ceremony. I will now spend time with my family and friends during the Christmas leave.”
Former Springwell Community School student Trooper Mark Russell, who joined the Army in 2009, drove a scimitar light reconnaissance vehicle and also took part in both vehicle and foot patrols conducting reconnaissance missions with Afghan soldiers.
He said: “I had never been on tour before when I first went out there, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I got used to it, and gradually started to learn what to look out for. We came under contact a few times.
“One time we were on one of our patrols observing a village – after an hour we heard a call sign and could hear the gunfire – we returned fire quickly.
“The Afghan soldiers seemed a little on edge and nervous when I first arrived but after a while they improved and were able to organise their own patrols. By the end of my tour they were really good. One of the highlights of my Army career was going to Afghanistan; it was stressful but definitely rewarding.”
Christopher and Mark were two of more than 250 members of 9th/12th Royal Lancers to deploy to Afghanistan.