Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Prince's tribute to Welsh Guards

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Prince Charles pays tribute to the "job so well done" by the Welsh Guards in Afghanistan

The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to 1st Battalion Welsh Guards who fought in Afghanistan, calling them "an immense credit to this nation".

Prince Charles inspected a parade of 400 officers and guardsmen at the regiment's base in Hampshire and presented campaign medals.

He told them they had displayed "immense courage and professionalism in the heat of battle".

The battalion suffered the loss of seven of its soldiers.

The prince told them he knew they were under daily attack but had maintained throughout "the finest traditions of this great regiment being as always resilient, good humoured, loyal and selfless".

Prince Charles
All of you are an immense credit to this nation and to, above all, Wales. Thank you.
Prince Charles

"I can never get over how you managed to display immense courage and professionalism in the heat of battle and then, after, to show restraint and compassion during lulls," he said.

"This work is absolutely vital in terms of winning over hearts and minds as far as the local population is concerned and I'm absolutely convinced you've done so much of that."

The prince also talked about the losses that the battalion had suffered and said the good work had come at "a great cost".

He listed those that had lost their lives and said they would be remembered with "pride, gratitude and affection".

"We will never forget what they've done and the sacrifice that they've made with all of us," he said.

Sgt Robert Young was injured while serving with the Welsh Guards in Afghanistan

"I know also that many were wounded, many were badly wounded and again we owe them an immense debt, particularly of gratitude."

The prince and the Duchess of Cornwall were at Lille Barracks to present campaign medals to the battalion after a six-month tour in Afghanistan that led to seven deaths, including their commanding officer, Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe, 39.

The prince was a friend of Lt Col Thorneloe, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand province in July.

Prince Charles meeting Welsh Guards
Prince Charles spoke to the Welsh Guards at the parade in Aldershot

Around 800 family members braved the bitter cold to watch the presentations and hear the speech.

The prince said that the moral support and understanding of the families despite the worry had been a source of strength.

He said he knew how the families had lived every day with worry after his own son Prince Harry spent two months in Afghanistan.

"All of you are an immense credit to this nation and to, above all, Wales. Thank you. Congratulations for a job well done," he told the men.

Charles, who is colonel of the regiment, and the duchess then spoke to families and those injured during the tour.

L/Cpl Geraint Hillard, 25, from Whitchurch, Cardiff, was severely injured in a roadside bomb blast in June.

His vehicle was ripped apart by the blast that also injured a colleague, who lost a leg.

Extra troops

"It's a bit of a shock and overwhelming but it's good to be back and see everybody," he said.

He said the prince had visited him in Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham when he was flown back to the UK.

The tour finished in October when around 130 troops arrived home.

The prince's visit also included him unveiling a portrait of himself which was commissioned by the officers' mess to mark his 60th birthday last year.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed the 500 extra troops going to Afghanistan will include 1st Battalion Royal Welsh.

On Monday, Gordon Brown confirmed he would send 500 more troops to Afghanistan, taking the total UK deployment to over 10,000.

Among the regiments to deploy extra troops is 1st Battalion Royal Welsh (The Royal Welch Fusiliers), which will form part of 11 Light Brigade.



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