Stratford soldier returns from Afghanistan to hero’s welcome

A teenage soldier from Stratford who spent the last six months clearing bombs from the streets of Afghanistan has been rewarded for his bravery.

Hundreds of people gathered on the streets of Oxford recently to cheer the return of 23 Pioneer Regiment, part of the Royal Logistic Corps.

Private Thomas Purcell has completed a tour of Afghanistan in the explosive ordnance disposal unit. After marching in the uniform he wore during the operation, he was handed with a medal for his work.

Speaking after the parade, the 19-year-old said: “It’s overwhelming being here. I’m speechless. The job has its ups and downs but the experience was once-in-a-lifetime.

“I’ve got family in the Army so what they’ve done is what I wanted to do. You crack on with it and with the lads around the morale is unreal.”

Around 450 members of 23 Pioneer Regiment returned from tours of duty in Afghanistan and Cyprus. Ten troops received medals from the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, John Harwood.

Thomas added: “I’m proud to be getting a medal but this achievement represents all of us as a team.”

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Staff Sergeant Graeme Osborne, who trained troops, paid tribute to those who turned out to greet them.

He said: “It’s good for the boys to be applauded as they walk through the streets and they were confident doing it.”