Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Saturday, 3 October 2009 17:00 UK

Thousands welcome soldiers home

The soldiers paraded through Antrim town
The soldiers paraded through Antrim town

Thousands of people have lined the streets of Antrim for a parade by the 38 Engineer Regiment who have returned from a six-month tour of Afghanistan.

Hours before they were deployed, two of their colleagues were murdered by the Real IRA outside Massereene army barracks in the town.

Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar were shot dead as they collected pizzas on 7 March.

Their families received the Queen Elizabeth Cross in a private ceremony.

A parade took place in Antrim for the 38 Engineer Regiment. Ciara Riddell reports.

About 400 soldiers were greeted by applause as they marched from a reception hosted by Antrim Borough Council on Saturday, back to their base.

Hundreds of people lined the parade route, waving Union flags and holding flowers.

Two of the soldier's colleagues from the regiment died in Helmand province during their tour.

Sapper Jordan Rossi died in an explosion near the town of Sangin in May.

Captain Daniel Shepherd was killed while commanding an improvised explosive device disposal (IEDD) team in the Nad-e-Ali district in July.

One of the soldiers returning from the tour, Sapper Mark Peoples, from Perth, said he knew the victims well.

He said there had been a "lot of anger, a lot of rage, quite definitely sadness" after the Massereene attack.

"We just cracked on (in Afghanistan) but now that we have gotten back we have had more time to reflect and remember them for the times we had with them."

Speaking ahead of the parade, Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Roger Lewis said he was immensely proud of his soldiers.

Mark Quinsey's mother,  Pamela, is comforted by her daughter,  Jaime
Mark Quinsey's mother, Pamela, is comforted by her daughter, Jaime

"It takes men and women of genuine character and real fortitude to stick to a task as daunting as the one we have faced since March," he said.

"It was never going to be easy but it became even more of a challenge when, with part of the regiment already in Afghanistan, dissident republicans launched an attack on our base in Massereene barracks, Antrim.

"Sappers Pat Azimkar and Mark Quinsey were murdered whilst two other soldiers along with two civilian delivery drivers were seriously injured.

"An incalculably tragic, barbaric and ultimately futile act, it served only to stiffen our resolve to improve, rather than shorten, the lives of other people."

During their six months in Afghanistan the regiment constructed 13 bridges and 58 new bases as well as protective walls in support of the battle groups comprising 19 Light Brigade, including Operation Panther's Claw.

"We will never forget Sapper Jordan Rossi of Bradford and Captain Daniel Shepherd of Lincoln who laid down their lives so that others may keep theirs," Lt Col Lewis said.



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