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‘Superb turnout’ on streets as soldiers are honoured

February 20, 2011

BRAVE soldiers were honoured yesterday in a touching homecoming as a Welsh regiment was granted the freedom of a South Wales county.

Servicemen and women from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (formerly the Royal Regiment of Wales) marched through the streets of Ebbw Vale as thousands of people lined the streets to pay tribute to their courage.

The regiment was granted the freedom of Blaenau Gwent in recognition of their “heroism and devotion to duty in the service of others”.

The Regimental Band and Corps of Drums of the Royal Welsh and nearly 50 soldiers from the division were led through the streets by the battalion mascot – Taffy the goat.

Lieutenant Colonel Didi Wheeler, the battalion’s commanding officer, paid tribute to the “superb turnout by the people of Ebbw Vale”.

He said: “Every time we come back to Wales, whether it’s in the Valleys, up north in North Wales or back to Cardiff, everywhere we go, we receive a tremendous degree of support and it has been absolutely fantastic.

“The boys have been doing back-to-back tours of Afghanistan and it really means a tremendous amount to them to come home, but also while they’re serving away to know that there’s so much support at home.”

Cardiff-based Lance Corporal Ryan Oxtoby, 24, who served in Iraq until 2007, said that it was a “great feeling” to be recognised at home.

He said: “We’re pretty proud to be back here, to hear people screaming out loud as you walk past, it’s a great feeling.”

Private Stephen Betts, 25, from Canton, Cardiff, had joined the regiment just five days before the parade.

“I have only just joined, but it was a great feeling to be recognised like that,” he said.

The regiment will finish its final commitment to Afghanistan next Friday, when the final division will return from the front – the first time in two years that the whole battalion will be reunited.

For the article on the Wales on Sunday website click here

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