THIS time last year they were fighting in the war zones of Afghanistan.
But solders of 5th Battalion, The Rifles, were among friends when they marched in uniform through the town centre on Saturday.
The troops took advantage of their Freedom of Doncaster as they marched to the Mansion House with rifles at the trail, bugles sounding and bands playing, five years to the day that they were granted the honour.
Doncaster is a heartland town for the battalion, an armoured infantry battalion which is normally based in Paderborn, Germany.
Many of the soldiers from the Battalion’s D Company and their families are from the borough.
And on Saturday they were joined by territorial army soldiers from D Rifles company, 5th Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers based in Scarborough Barracks in Balby, army cadets from the Humberside and South Yorkshire Cadet Force, and veterans from The Rifles Regimental Association.
The Rifles march at 140 paces per minute, much faster than the rest of the Infantry who march at 120.
The 250-strong parade formed in Sir Nigel Gresley Square and marched from Waterdale along Wood Street, Cleveland Street, Duke Street, St Sepulchregate, High Street, halting at the Mansion House, where the parade was inspected by the civic mayor Coun Christine Mills, elected mayor Peter Davies, Lord-Lieutenant of South Yorkshire David Moody and Brigadier Justin Maciejewski.
“We are delighted to be exercising our freedom as The Rifles in Doncaster for the first time and to be able to thank people for their support during our Afghanistan tour,” said the battalion’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Collins.
“While the battalion was away doing this high intensity and challenging job, it meant a lot to the Riflemen to know they had this support.
“Exercising our historic right to the Freedom of the Borough is a great honour and a fitting way to celebrate our achievements and commemorate the two soldiers who were sadly killed in action - Rifleman Sheldon Steel and Private Tom Lake of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment.”
The battalion returned from a six-month tour in Afghanistan earlier this year where they had been widely spread in Helmand Province providing the British area’s Armoured Infantry capability.
Their work included helping local communities around the Nahr-e-Saraj area, assisting district community councillors and local elders from villages in the area get together at a ‘shura’ or meeting, and, in a three-day partnered operation, guarding an area while IEDs were cleared so the Afghan police were able to build defences around their new checkpoint.
During their tour Riflemen also teamed up with 200 warriors from the 2nd Kandak of the Afghan National Army and patrolmen from the Afghan National Police to drive the insurgents from Kopak, in the Nahr-e Saraj district.