SOLDIERS of the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh are saying goodbye to Cyprus as they move closer to their Welsh roots after two-and-a-half years on the island.
An advance party has arrived at Dale Barracks, Chester, tasked with making preparations for the move by the remaining soldiers and their families over the coming weeks with all soldiers and families being in situ by the end of August.
For many soldiers Chester will be close to home – Wrexham being only 15 miles away – and is the battalion’s spiritual home and centre of one of its primary recruiting grounds.
During their tour of duty, elements of the battalion have deployed twice to the Falkland Islands, once to Iraq, six times to Afghanistan and also participated in Operation Highbrow, to evacuate British Nationals from the Lebanon. Despite these demands, the battalion still found time to hold a medals parade in June, organise two adventurous training exercises in Canada and take part in a myriad of sporting and charitable events.
The commanding officer of the battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Huw James, paid tribute to his troops.
He said: “We have had a busy and challenging time in Cyprus.
“It has however been hugely rewarding – the island has provided many superb opportunities and we have made many friends.
“Now our attention is turning to Chester, and we look forward to serving close to Wales.”
The battalion will exercise the Freedom of Wrexham when they march through the town on September 6, an event which will coincide with the Royal Welch Fusiliers’ Comrades Association annual weekend celebration.
The battalion will also conduct a formal ‘Welcome Home to Wales’ parade in Swansea on September 13.
The two parades will not only mark the return of the battalion to Wales, they will also be post-operational tour parades, and an opportunity for the battalion to march in front of the Welsh public.
There will be no let up when they returns to the UK when training begins with live-firing exercises in November, at the Sennybridge Training Area, leading up to a battalion exercise in Kenya in late January to March 2009.