Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Sunday, 20 September 2009 19:45 UK

Panther's Claw troops back in UK

soldiers return from afghanistan
There was a tearful welcome for the troops at Tidworth barracks

Soldiers who took part in some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan have been reunited with their families at a barracks in Wiltshire.

The 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment played a key role in Operation Panther's Claw in Helmand.

The soldiers were welcomed back to Swinton barracks in Tidworth.

L/Cpl Allister Roberts, who got married six weeks before being deployed six months ago, said he and his wife had "a lot of catching up to do".

L/Cpl Roberts' wife Amy said: "It's hard but you do get through it and here we are today."

Homemade explosives

Ellie Sharpe, who is expecting her second child in November, was there to welcome back her husband Cpl Richard Sharpe. He only found out about the baby the month before he left.

She said: "I'm on Facebook and I've been posting pictures, he can see me getting bigger by the day.

"I told him he had to be back for the birth, as long as he did that I didn't mind him missing the pregnancy."

Her husband joked: "The bump was flat when I left, and now it won't be long before I have another little girl. It's really nice to come home."

During Operation Panther's Claw, the Royal Engineers were required to block or control 13 bridges over a canal as other troops pushed forward in a major offensive against the Taliban.

They also cleared lines where homemade explosives had been laid and blew holes in enemy compounds.

Squadron Commander Major Andy Hanna said every soldier had had their "mental and physical reserves tested to the very limit".

"While we witnessed the bloodiest summer of fighting since operations began in the south of the country, it has not been all offensive," he added.

"The squadron completed the most ambitious construction project outside Camp Bastion to date, it handed back a school to the local people and significantly enhanced the protection to the International Security Assistance Forces and the Afghan National Security Forces within its area of operations."

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