Field Marshal, General, Colonels, Officers, Soldiers and families of 1RGR.
I am so proud to be with you all today as we mark the end of yet another gruelling tour in Afghanistan.
I know that you have all worked incredibly hard throughout last year and that there have been occasions when the fighting has been constant and intense. Despite this, and in keeping with the finest traditions of the Regiment and your illustrious forebears, you have continued to focus on the mission with your renowned determination. As a result, I am assured that your valiant efforts have led to considerable improvements in your area of operations.
Above all, you have managed to make significant inroads into the local communities; you have played a vital role in the slow but essential process of relationship-building with the local elders; you have helped the Afghan security forces to stand on their own and you have significantly improved the security situation in the region. Whilst it is the bigger events, such as the Afghan Parliamentary elections and the Wheat Seed Distribution programme, which capture the public attention, I know that it has been your constant endeavour to improve the security and re-build the shattered communities of Nahr e Seraj that has been the real legacy of your tour. You left it a better place.
Tragically, progress in Helmand has come at a terrible cost, and as we stand here today it is only right that we remember in our hearts those friends and colleagues — some of them from three of my regiments — who did not make it home:
- Gunner Cusack, 4th Regiment Royal Artillery
- Lance Corporal Cochran, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment
- Corporal Webster, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment
- Lance Corporal Breeze, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment
- Trooper Smith, Royal Dragoon Guards
- Corporal Kirkpatrick, 101 Engineer Regiment
- Trooper Leverett, Royal Dragoon Guards
- Major Bowman, 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles
- Lieutenant Turkington, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
- Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
- Lieutenant Sanderson, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment
- Staff Sergeant Linley, 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment
- Mohammed Faroq – Battlegroup Interpreter
- Kingsman Deady, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
- Captain Griffiths, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
- Rifleman Suraj Gurung, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
- Sergeant Rayner, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
At the same time, we also remember their families and friends as they now struggle to come to terms with their tragic loss. I am so glad that one or two of the families have been able to come today – you have shown, all of you, enormous inner strength and courage and this is the time when we can express our deepest sympathy for all that you suffer and endure on behalf of your loved ones …
More than one hundred soldiers from the Battlegroup were wounded in action and I know that Rifleman Sachin Limbu, who is still critically ill in hospital, whom I was able to visit just before Christmas, is very much in our thought and prayers at this time. I need hardly say how wonderful it is to see that so many of the injured have been able to attend this parade. Having met many of the incredibly dedicated medical and nursing staff at Camp Bastion, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and at Headley Court, I feel sure that you received the best possible care and attention; but I know only too well that at the end of the day, it is your un-wavering will-power and determination to get on with your lives that sees you through. You are, without a doubt, a shining inspiration to us all and I can only wish you the speediest of recoveries …
No homecoming would be complete, of course, without acknowledging the vitally important, and often un-sung, role played by the families in the life of the Battalion and in the Army as a whole. Let me be quite clear: you are a crucial part of the military contribution to the mission. You keep the home fires burning, allowing our soldiers to focus on their incredibly difficult task. Thank you, more than I can ever say, for your continued support – it is greatly valued.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Commanding Officer has told me of numerous acts of extraordinary courage which have taken place during your tour. I have to say that this came as no surprise to me. The history of our Regiment is littered with incredible tales of immense bravery, selfless service and sacrifice and, as ever, you have maintained this unique tradition. Suitably humbled by the exemplary way in which you carry out your duty, I remain inordinately proud to have been your Colonel-in-Chief for the past thirty-four years.