England

Crowds in Stoke-on-Trent welcome home Mercian Regiment

Mercian Regiment homecoming parade
Image caption The regiment will take part in a series of week-long homecoming parades

Crowds lined the streets of Stoke-on-Trent city centre to celebrate the work of the Mercian Regiment.

The civic parade welcomed home the 3rd Battalion (Staffords) after their seven-month tour of Afghanistan.

The regiment endured the loss of one of their soldiers, Private Gareth Bellingham, 22, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, who was killed during the tour.

A thanksgiving and memorial service will be held at Lichfield Cathedral on Monday.

A week-long series of homecoming parades will visit Stafford, Tamworth, Burton-upon-Trent, Wolverhampton and Walsall.

Assistant Regimental Secretary Major (retired) Jim Massey said: "The families throughout the Midlands and across the Mercian Regiment recruiting area will be celebrating the safe return of the soldiers.

"However, this will be edged by the knowledge that Private Gareth Bellingham was killed in action during the tour. The thoughts of every member of the regiment are with his family who will remain part of the family that is the Mercian Regiment.

"Mercian soldiers have made a real difference to security in Helmand, and Afghanistan as a whole, during their tour, training the Afghan National Army, providing security to various parts of Helmand and supporting ordinary Afghans as they try to live their lives."

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