Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Duchess of Cornwall attends troops' homecoming parade

The Duchess of Cornwall has described 650 soldiers returning from Afghanistan to Hampshire as "heroes" during a special homecoming event.

The soldiers of 11 Light Brigade marched through Winchester accompanied by three bands, while thousands of people lined the streets and cheered.

Sixty-four soldiers from the brigade were killed in action during its six-month tour of duty.

The Ministry of Defence said the event was its biggest-ever homecoming parade.

As the duchess addressed the brigade, she said: "You are all an immense credit to this country.

"You are all heroes and I salute you for a job very well done.

"You have proved once again that the British Army is the best in the world."

The brigade, based in Hampshire, is made up of 12 UK-wide regiments and was formed especially for the deployment.

It will disband after the homecoming event.

The duchess, who also attended a private reception for soldiers and their families, added: "Although we are here to celebrate your return the price has been extremely high.

"I join you in mourning those 64 soldiers who are not here and who made the ultimate sacrifice during these past months.

"My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to their families as they continue to come to terms with their agonising loss."

The parade was followed by a service of thanksgiving and remembrance at Winchester Cathedral in the afternoon.

Kim Shaw, from Sydney, Australia, was in Winchester to see her son taking part in the parade.

She said: "They are all heroes, I'm very proud of him. It was pretty tough, there was lots of support but it was tough.

"The news was pretty bad at times, but we kept going."

Another spectator, Greeta Whitlock from Southampton, said: "It's great to support them and let them know how treasured they are.

"I think they are incredible and just feel sorry for all the families who have lost someone, but they are doing a great job out there."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "11 Light Brigade is made up of many different regiments and units, and is unique in that it came into existence specifically for a tour of duty in Afghanistan to reduce pressure on other regiments that were being sent out increasingly frequently.

"Some of the units are based in Hampshire but other regiments are based in Edinburgh, Chester, London and Germany.

"This national event, the biggest of its kind ever to be staged, is to commemorate the service and sacrifices of 11 Light Brigade."

The parade was accompanied by the Band of the Grenadier Guards, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Band and the Band of Three Rifles.

The 12 regiments taking part are: 11 Light Brigade Headquarters Staff & 261 Signals Squadron; The Household Cavalry Regiment; 1 Royal Horse Artillery; 28 Engineer Regiment, The Royal Engineers; 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards; 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards.

Also, the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment; 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards); 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Welsh Fusiliers); 3rd Battalion The Rifles; 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps; 10 Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites