Big welcome for Marham squadron

PUBLISHED: 10:16 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 11:43 08 July 2010

RAF Marham IX Squadron was given a rousing welcome home from Afghanistan was they marched through Downham Market on Thursday evening.

RAF Marham IX Squadron was given a rousing welcome home from Afghanistan was they marched through Downham Market on Thursday evening.

More than 3,000 people cheered, clapped and waved flags as the exhausted servicemen and women paraded through the bright evening sunshine in their desert combat uniforms.

Many had arrived in Britain on HMS Albion just hours before the parade, after almost a week's delay caused by the Icelandic ash cloud.

Crowds, in some places 10 deep, watched as the “heroes” were handed operational service medals in the town's market square.

Praising his men for a job done with professionalism and a smile on their faces, officer commanding IX Squadron Nick Hay said the squadron was on tour at a crucial time in the campaign.

The Tornado squadron provided important air support for Operation Moshtarak - the biggest military offensive in Afghanistan which was launched in February.

The tornados gave air cover as helicopters dropped ground troops. The squadron also checked sites and watched for enemy activity in the build up to the operation.

At the height of the offensive the men and women from RAF Marham flew for almost 20 consecutive hours to watch and protect the ground forces who were at their most vulnerable.

They also carried out vital reconnaissance before the operation.

Wing Commander Hay told the personnel: “You should wear your medals and you should wear them with pride.

“It has been a superb homecoming and you should remember it for a long time.”

It is the first homecoming parade to be held in the town. Wing Cdr Hay said they had decided to hold the parade because of a historic affiliation between IX Squadron and Downham Market.

Marianne Oakley Heemels and her four-year-old daughter Lucy watched her husband Marcus receive his medal.

She said: “I am just so proud of him. Three months is a long time. It's good to have him back. It is fantastic to see so many people out. It makes you really proud. I think people are here like us - to support our heroes.

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