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'Thank you for your tremendous support'

PUBLISHED: 17:42 10 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:33 07 July 2010

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your amazing support.

That is the message to Dereham people from soldiers, their families and senior officers after the incredible turnout at the welcome home parade for the Light Dragoons.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your amazing support.

That is the message to Dereham people from soldiers, their families and senior officers after the incredible turnout at the welcome home parade for the Light Dragoons.

An estimated 5000 people packed into the town on Friday to give a heroes return to the troops following their gruelling tour of Afghanistan.

Lt Col Gus Fair, commander of the Light Dragoons, beamed with pride as he marched his troops through the town.

“We had been warned it was going to be bigger than two years ago when we had the last parade. It is an honour, a proud day and hugely emotional.

“I couldn't look at anyone, I had to keep my head up to stay focussed. We are slowly coming down to earth.”

Major General Andrew Stewart - colonel of the Light Dragoons - said: “The welcome back has been absolutely amazing and fantastic. To see everyone there of all ages cheering and waving flags was truly wonderful. The community should be immensely proud and the soldiers are humbled by what they have seen today.

“To see their faces as they marched past and walked through the crowds - it makes it all worthwhile.”

He was the commanding officer in 1992 when the regiment was formed from two other regiments and pinned the medals on to the troops at the end of the parade.

He said: “It was a huge honour. My grand father was with the regiment in world war one. My father was with the regiment on D-Day. For me to be able to pin the medals on the regiment at what has been the biggest, hardest tour since world war two was a huge honour.”

Trooper Nicky Waller, 20, from Norwich, said: “It means a hell of a lot to the regiment to think the people of Dereham are supporting us and today is our way of saying thanks. The whole regiment is buzzing.”

Major James Campbell-Barnard said: “We are acutely aware of the support there has been in previous years but no more so than this year, particularly as we took our first fatality, but it seems to have galvanised the community and helped the families at Robertson Barracks come to terms with that.

“We now want to thank the local community and thank the families and give thanks for those who came back safely.”

Sgt Gavin Harvey, 28, lost his right leg and part of his left leg and said the parade was “absolutely overwhelming.”

“I have never experienced anything like that before. It is good to see the public showing their support for the British Army because we do it (their jobs) for the people.

Jo Newcombe, wife of Capt Lenny Newcombe, attended the parade with daughter Leona, 17, said: “It is fantastic, it is overwhelming and to see the old comrades with the medals, I welled up.”

The parade was organised by Breckland Council and leader William Nunn said: “I'm proud that the council could host the parade today, and I am equally proud to be here to greet them as they march through the town and receive their medals.”

Traffic was predictably very heavy in Dereham on Friday, especially first thing in the morning.

There had been warnings that vehicles would be towed away if they were left in restricted areas, but at least one car had to be taken away from Church Street.

The market moved to the Cowper Road car park for the day and stallholders generally had a quiet morning, especially early on as people had find it hard to park.

On Monday the residents of Barnsley in South Yorkshire lined the streets to pay their respects to the regiment, despite rain.

Tomorrow, more are expected to pour into Newcastle for another parade due there.

See our special supplement for reports and pictures from the memorable parade.

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