Page last updated at 21:21 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 22:21 UK

Marines return from Afghanistan

By Denise Glass
Tayside reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Natalie Dante and baby Jared greet and Cpl Paul Scott Wiggins
Natalie Dante and baby Jared greet Cpl Paul Scott Wiggins

Almost 200 marines have been reunited with their families in Angus after a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The men from 45 Commando have been in Helmand Province capturing Taleban weapons, protecting roads and destroying heroin and poppy crops.

Nine of their members were killed during operations.

The men arrived in coaches at RM Condor, in Arbroath, to the sound of bagpipes and applause and cheers from their waiting loved ones.

Hard work

About 800 members of 45 Commando group had been in Afghanistan since October.

A total of 180, who flew into Edinburgh Airport on Friday, were among the last to return. The final marines will return to Arbroath during the weekend.

One of those returning to RM Condor was Andrew Gibson, 19, from Arbroath.

He said: "It was hard work, it was rewarding. There was a lot of fighting, a lot of highs and lows.

"The best part was fighting the Taleban and winning, beating them every single time.

"The lowest point - obviously losing a close friend and colleague is quite tough. There were a lot of bad injuries, but the lads who've been injured are doing really well so it's good to see."

marine bus
All 45 commando has now left Afghanistan

Along with the nine men from 45 Commando who were killed, another three serving alongside them also died and 52 had to return to the UK after being injured.

Andrew's mother, Tracy, was pleased to have her son home.

She said: "It's just absolutely amazing, thrilling, it's been the longest seven months.

"Every single day has been constant worry, just waiting for the knock on the door to come and it's been such a tough tour for them and they've been so professional.

"But we can't forget the nine guys from here who aren't back, we've got to give their families a thought at this time."

Rallied round

Natalie Dante, 26, from Ayr, and baby son Jared were in Arbroath to see Cpl Paul Scott Wiggins come home.

Ms Dante said: "It's amazing, I can't even explain.

"I'm just so happy, it's been really really bad but this wee one has kept me going.

"He'll be one on Tuesday so he's just made it home for his birthday."

Paul Scott, 27, said: "It's great to be back with the family.

"It was tough but we rallied round together and just got on with the job"

Josh Hutchinson is reunited with his family
Josh Hutchinson is reunited with his family

Josh Hutchinson, 21, from Doncaster, said: "It's excellent, a good feeling, excited to be back for a bit of downtime.

"It was dangerous times but you are trained to do it. We took the fight to the enemy each time."

He confessed that the food they had in Afghanistan was "horrendous" and he enjoyed getting parcels of sweets and chocolate from his family.

Commanding Officer Lt Col Jim Morris believes his men have played a large part in improving conditions in Afghanistan.

"45 Commando group have made a tremendous difference in Sangin," he said.

"Primarily what we've done is create the appropriate security conditions to allow all sorts of reconstruction and stabilisation activity to take place and get people to understand that the government of Afghanistan offers them a far better future than the Taleban offers them.

"It's come at a great price to the unit and I would like to pay tremendous tribute to the fallen and the families of the fallen."

The men of 45 Commando will now have some leave before they regroup and hold a memorial service for the colleagues who were killed.

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