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Are troops returning?

SPECULATION is mounting that Aldershot troops serving in the Gulf could soon be making the journey home.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has issued a written statement to MPs announcing the withdrawal of some British troops from the region.

The initial withdrawal will see ships, aircraft and field hospital units making the return journey.

Mr Hoon told MPs: “It is our policy to deploy personnel on operations for no longer than is necessary to achieve our military objectives.

“We will, therefore, continue to adjust our forces deployed to the Gulf as appropriate, withdrawing units whose tasks are complete, and in due course replacing those whose tasks continue.

“For example, elements of 101 Logistic Brigade will replace their counterparts in 102 Logistic Brigade during early May.”

But an MoD spokesman was unable to confirm when Aldershot troops, which include 7(Para) Royal Horse Artillery, 9(Para) Squadron, Royal Engineers and 4 General Support Medical Unit would arrive home.

In his statement Mr Hoon also said there were no plans for any further significant numbers of soldiers to be deployed to the Gulf.

But a number of law enforcement specialists will travel to Iraq to help restore order across the country, which has seen widespread looting.

British troops are also working to repair the country’s water, power and fuel supplies, which were damaged during the war.

Soldiers with 7(Para) RHA (who feature in pictures on page 7) have been based to the west of Basra but have now moved out of the desert.

Over the weekend they travelled north to the Maysan Province, where they will provide cover for the Royal Irish before being given their own area to patrol.

Manchester Evening News reporter Martin Dillon, who has been with the unit since the start of the war, says the soldiers were pleased to leave the harsh desert conditions behind.

He said: “We stayed in a local school and you could see the change of scenery act as a pick-me-up for the troops. Life had become fairly boring during the last few days and there is only so much sun and sand you can take. The lads have realised that it was going to be highly unlikely they would fire their guns again and they are keen to get out of the desert.”

With the fiercest fighting over, the troops are also coming into closer contact with the civilian population and there is even time to take note of some of the similarities between the Iraqis and the British.

In a report sent on Saturday, Martin said: “At our first stop the tank soon became a playground with the troops and myself scrabbling all over it. People were continuing to walk round with looted items from various buildings, carrying everything from steel girders to empty ammunition boxes. They were using cars, donkey-drawn carts or balancing them on their heads.

“Then as we approached our destination, the town Al’ Amarah, it happened, the moment I had been dreading since my arrival — the first sight of a Manchester United football top.”


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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