AROUND 2,000 residents and visitors lined the streets of Risca this morning to cheer the heroic medics of the 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital unit.
The squadron received a heroes’ welcome as they marched through the town in an event to mark the unit’s homecoming following a tour of Afghanistan as part of Operation HERRICK.
More than 100 Reserve soldiers, who work in hospitals and local health boards across Wales and beyond, took part in the ceremony.
Beautiful weather conditions meant residents turned out in their thousands to cheer on the unit as they marched through the town.
The parade, led by The Band and Corps of Drums of the Royal Welsh, marched onto Graig View and Dan y Graig Road before turning onto Tredegar Street high street. Those marching came to a halt outside Tredegar Park, where a medal ceremony took place honouring medics’ service in Afghanistan.
The unit then marched to the nearby war memorial, where wreathes were laid to honour those who had lost their lives in the line of duty.
Denise Savage, from Risca, brought along her grandchildren and her 89-year-old father Wilfred Jones, to see the parade.
“It’s so nice to see them marching through the town and it’s good for them to see how proud of them we are,” she said. “It’s so important for us to support our troops, and it’s fantastic to see there’s been such a good turn out. I was amazed to see so many people in town to cheer them on, it’s great.”
Traders and businesses entered into the spirit of the occasion by dressing their shop windows in patriotic colours and themed displays, while the crowds waved Welsh flags and sported daffodils and leeks.
CO Col Tina O’Donnelly said: “The parade was absolutely superb from our point of view. To come back from our tour of duty and have weather like this, on the first day of spring, and have so many people turn out to support us was very special.
“When we were out in Afghanistan on operations we had a job to do. We’ve completed that job, and a ceremony like this has been the perfect closure.”
Cllr Harry Andrews, leader of Caerphilly Council, said: “Today has been a very special day for everyone involved and a fitting tribute to the heroic medics of the 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital. The support for the medics was clear to see – thousands of people came here to cheer them along and make this event a real spectacle.
“I think I speak on behalf of everyone associated with Caerphilly County Borough Council, along with our residents, when I say that we are proud to be a partner of the 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital.”