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Nostalgia: Chester-based soldiers grateful for Queen’s right royal thank you

On September 9, 2015, Her Majesty the Queen will become Britain's longest serving monarch - we look back at her visits to Chester

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II presents a Campaign Medal to Shaun Stocker of 1st Battalion Royal Welsh, during the Drumhead Service of Thanksgiving to mark the return of 1st Battalion Royal Welsh from operations in Afghanistan, at Chester Racecourse, June 10, 2010.(Image: Peter Byrne)

Brave soldiers were grateful to be recognised for their difficult mission in Afghanistan at a homecoming ceremony at Chester Racecourse in 2010, attended by The Queen.

Chronicle reporter David Holmes was on the scene at the time.

Lance Corporal Gareth Smith, 23, from Upton , Chester, a member of 1st battalion The Welsh Regiment, was among 1,800 servicemen and family members who took part in the service of thanksgiving at Chester Racecourse where 240 campaign medals were awarded.

L Cpl Smith said at the time: “Thanks go out for today. It shows the support for the lads. Some lads have travelled up from South Wales this morning.

“I noticed people standing on the Walls and it’s great to know people appreciate what we do.”

He was also grateful to the cheering crowds who welcomed the battalion on a recent parade in his home city to celebrate the regiment being given the Freedom of the Borough.

Queen Elizabeth II presents a Campaign Medal to Shaun Stocker of 1st Battalion Royal Welsh, during the Drumhead Service of Thanksgiving to mark the return of 1st Battalion Royal Welsh from operations in Afghanistan, at Chester Racecourse in 2010(Image: Peter Byrne)

And L Cpl Smith, who lives with his parents Kevin and Patricia in Upton at weekends and at Dale Camp in the week, sympathises with the family of Chester soldier Corporal Terry Webster, who was killed in Afghanistan.

“Your heart goes out to any family who have lost a son or a daughter. You understand what they must go through and what the lad was doing at the time because you are in the same occupation as him.”

The former Upton High School pupil had been on two tours of duty in Afghanistan but had to return home early this time due to an old rugby injury which required surgery.

The Lance Corporal, who was in charge of four men, said training was essential for dealing with hazards such as road-side bombs.

“We were doing patrols on foot and in vehicles showing a presence and helping people, letting them know you are there for them and trying to push away the Taleban threat.”

He accepted the response from locals was 'a mixture' and stones as well as verbal abuse had been hurled at him on the street. Winning hearts and minds through humanitarian work such as building schools and hospitals was a key part of the work.”

“There were a couple of times when we were up against it. We were doing a patrol when we came under attack and we were pinned down for a couple of hours and were starting to run out of water until a sergeant major made a mad dash down to a river and brought back a few bottles.”

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