Heroic soldiers from across the Fylde have spoken of their relief after returning home from Afghanistan for what is set to be the final time.
Troops from the North West’s Infantry, The 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2 LANCS) are back on home soil at Weeton Barracks following a six month tour in Nad-e Ali, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The number of soldiers, along with their equipment and supplies, is being scaled down in the country after 12 years, in a move which will culminate in the removal of all British forces in 2014.
Kingsman Matthew Lucas, 26, from Cleveleys, has completed three tours in Nad-e Ali.
Since his first tour in 2009, he has seen the district change from a war zone to what is now a bustling town with children going to school and markets lining the streets.
The Regiment has worked with the Afghanistan National Army and police force to remove Taliban control, pushing them back across a bordering canal, and pulling out to leave the protection of Nad-e Ali in their hands. Kingsman Lucas, a signaller, said: “It’s a massive relief that we are home and we don’t have to go back again.
“The first time I went out there my family was really worried but now it’s just like I’ve been away from home for a long time.
“The fact they don’t worry as much is a big relief to me.”
Kingsman Lucas said he believes Nad-e Ali is now more secure thanks to their efforts.
He added: “It was really good to see the progress we’ve made.
“I feel like they massively appreciate us being there and a lot of the kids were sad to see us go. When you see the bigger picture from going out into the thick of it during the first tour, to moving our base a mile and a half up the road on the second, to now having the whole area was brilliant.”
Kingsman Ashly Royale, 22, from Marton, was on his first tour of Afghanistan and says his time away from home was made easier by having his brother, Reece, 26, in the same battalion.
He added: “It was a lot easier for me because my brother was there and if I needed to speak with someone or a familiar face he was there.
“It’s a good thing for my family that we won’t be out there anymore.
“From what my brother told me about previous tours a lot of lives were lost but on this one there was minimal casualties, so you can see things moving forward.
“After six months it’s nice to get home and everything just goes back into a routine after a while.”
Lt Col Neil Unsworth, commanding officer of 2 LANCS, added: “It’s a great relief to be back with everyone in one piece.
“That’s what I always hoped for but didn’t expect.
“I’m very proud of what the guys have done.”