By Dan Moffat | @
More than 300 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards were welcomed back to Wales with a homecoming parade in Cardiff following their tour in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of supporters, including family, friends, and loved ones, filled Cardiff Castle courtyard and more waited outside the grounds to watch them and the Regimental Band march through the city.
The Guards were on patrol for 16 hours a day on the tour, working constantly to guarantee the safety of the officials. They were also tasked with providing support to the Afghan security forces in the aftermath of attacks, and over the duration of the tour were involved in sixty-five ‘serious attacks’.
The tour was part of Operation Toral, and the British Army’s contribution to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force mission, called Operation Resolute Support.
The Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Dianne Elizabeth Rees, was one of the key speakers at the parade and paid tribute to the soldiers.
She said: “Your roles were both dangerous and vital in providing protection to the international advisors, I am astonished to learn that the battalion averaged around 400 protection missions a week, meaning you routinely patrolled on three patrols a day.
“To all our great relief, you have all returned safely home, and we are truly honoured to have you on parade today and to march through our wonderful City.”
During the tour, the Welsh Guards were mainly tasked with providing security and protection to the UK and Coalition mentors, so they could conduct their day to day business in Kabul.
Veterans and ex-service personnel were among the crowd, including Maldwyn Jones, the Secretary General of the Welsh Guards Association. He said it was important they get the support they need for doing a job that no one else wants to do.
Ex-Welsh rugby international Sam Warburton also went to show his support and meet some of the Welsh Guards.
He said: “When I was playing I always found people like the Welsh Guards always put the game into perspective, because they’re out there doing the real job, looking after the security of the country and putting their lives at risk.
“We’re just playing Rugby, so it’s always a privilege to be asked to help out and I’m glad they’re getting the recognition they deserve.”
Christopher Jones was one of the Welsh Guards welcomed back after serving a total of seven years, over several tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. His Mum Christine and Sister Sara were both present on the day, cheering him on in the Welsh capital.
She said: “He was over the moon to hear we were coming down, we never get to see him in his uniform, and we’re so proud of him and all of them for what they do.
“Some of the stories he’s told us about Afghanistan are a bit scary for family, but as he says it goes with the job and he loves it.”
The homecoming parade effectively closes the Operation Toral chapter for the battalion and marks the end of their time in the 11th Infantry Brigade as a ‘Light Mechanised Battalion’.
On the 27 February, the Welsh Guards return to the headquarters in London as Light Infantry, which puts them on standby to protect the UK in the event of a terrorist attack or any other emergency in the capital.