A group of battle-weary troops were finally re-united with their families at an emotional homecoming – after their return was delayed by the volcanic ash cloud.
The 60 brave soldiers from A Company 4th Battalion The Rifles were greeted by friends and family at Bulford Barracks in Wiltshire after a gruelling six month tour in Afghanistan.
Their homecoming was delayed by two days because of flight disruption caused by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
But their return was tinged with sadness for the five comrades who died during their mission in Helmand Province – one of the heaviest losses for a single company.
Commanding officer Major Richard Streatfeild said: ”We do not confuse taking casualties with a losing battle. Every one is a tragedy for families, friends and comrades.
”They died fighting for their friends and doing the job they volunteered for.”
A Company was based in the Sangin District of Northern Helmand and was part of 3 Rifles battle group.
The unit played a key role in Operation Moshtarak, a joint British, American and Afghan campaign which began in February to drive the Taliban from its strongholds in Helmand.
They carried out the treacherous task of extending ‘areas of security’ into enemy territory from Forward Operating Base Inkerman.
The soldiers who died were Lance Corporal Tom Keogh, 24, Rifleman Carlo Apolis, 28, Rifleman Martin Kinggett, 19, Rifleman Peter Aldridge, 19, and Rifleman Samuel Bassett, 21.
Rifleman Martin Kinggett, 19, died a hero after sacrificing himself to provide covering fire for the evacuation of an injured colleague.
His family said in a statement: ”Martin was a loving son, brother, grandson, uncle and boyfriend.
”He will be missed by many, many people who know him and loved him. He gave his life doing what he loved, he always wanted to be a soldier. He will always be our hero.”