Stoke & Staffordshire

Mercian Regiment: Final marches for disbanded battalion

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Media captionSoldiers from the 3rd Battalion, the Mercians, have recently returned from Afghanistan

Members of an army battalion, which will disband at the end of the week, has started a series of parades to mark its return from Afghanistan.

The soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment, returned from a nine month tour in April.

They will march through nine towns on Saturday.

The government announced in 2012 the regiment would lose one of its battalions as part of a programme of cuts.

The men will join either the 1st or 2nd battalions.

The regiment used to be known as The Staffordshire Regiment and recruits soldiers from Staffordshire, the West Midlands and Birmingham, with its headquarters in Lichfield.

Until recently, the 3rd Battalion was based in Bad Fallingbostel, Germany.

Smiles on faces

The Mercian Regiment said there would not be a "disbandment parade", but instead the 250 soldiers would mark their return from operations in Afghanistan. A service will be held at Lichfield cathedral after the parade in the city.

They will march through Lichfield, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent, Tamworth, Burton-upon-Trent, and Cannock.

Speaking at the first of the parades in Stafford, Major Neil Kelly thanked the people who turned out to watch. He said: "You can see the smiles on the soldiers faces, it means a lot to the whole battalion."

A short reception will take place after each parade, where local soldiers will be presented with their operational service medals for Afghanistan.

Captain Matt Odell, Adjutant 3rd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment, said: "We are looking forward to welcoming the soldiers home, who have all worked extremely hard during the past nine months."

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