Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 15:04 UK

Marines homecoming street parade


Hundreds of men from 45 Commando paraded through Arbroath

Royal Marines who recently returned from Afghanistan have taken part in a homecoming parade in Arbroath.

The 700 men of 45 Commando have the Freedom of Angus, which allows them to march through the streets.

The unit, which is based at RM Condor in the town, was awarded the freedom in 2003 in recognition of its services and close links with the area.

The men spent six months in Helmand Province, during which time nine members of the unit were killed.

A further three men serving alongside them also died.

About 2,000 people lined the streets to welcome the unit home. The crowd cheered, applauded and waved Saltire and Union flags as the marines marched by.

They were led along their mile-long route by the Royal Marine Band of Scotland.

The unit returned to Scotland last month after its operation fighting the Taliban, destroying heroin and poppy crops and helping improve local infrastructure.

We pay great tribute to our marines who sadly made the ultimate sacrifice, or were wounded in battle
Lt Col Jim Morris

Sarah Clarke, 29, attended the parade to see her husband, 22-year-old Marine Tom Clarke.

She said: "I think the best word for the way I feel is relieved - when he was out there they were the worst seven months of my life.

"I know the lads were all saying beforehand they didn't think anyone was going to bother today, so this will mean a lot to them."

Commanding officer, Lt Col Jim Morris said: "We're very proud of our links with the local community, so it's a tremendous honour to parade through our home town of Arbroath.

"It's an opportunity for us to say thank you to all those in the area who supported us. That support to the men and their families cannot be underestimated, and was very welcome.

Lt Col Morris said it was "a tough but successful" six months and he was proud of his marines' achievements.

"We made real progress in the region - delivering security and local governance to the Afghan people, allowing schools, shops, health clinics and offices to open in the region," he said.

"We also found and destroyed a number of Taliban weapons and opium. This success has come at a cost and we pay great tribute to our marines who sadly made the ultimate sacrifice, or were wounded in battle.

"Enduring and sustainable progress was certainly made, but it was gritty, slow and dangerous work."

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