Return of the Rifles – but 13 of them did not make it

Soldiers march in Croydon in honour of the comrades they lost in Afghanistan

They had suffered more casualties in their tour than any other British unit in the Afghan frontline, carrying out their mission in an area the Taliban had concentrated their bombing campaign. Yesterday they were on the march in remembrance of one of the many who had fallen.

The streets of Croydon, in south London, were packed with hundreds of people welcoming the 2nd Battalion, The Rifles. Danny Simpson, one of the 13 who died in Sangin, came from the area and the soldiers had come from their base in Northern Ireland at the invitation of the mayor.

Fourteen others had suffered suffered "life-changing injuries". Lieutenant Alex Horsfal was one of them. Yesterday he was among those watching the parade in the hazy sunshine. He lost a leg and suffered severe damage to an arm when he and his comrades were caught in a twin blast in July. Five riflemen were killed in the carnage, one of the worst days suffered by the Army in recent military history.

"I think what we have managed to achieve is fantastic, although the casualties have been fairly high. It's been a tough tour" he said. "While I was there, everything was going to plan as it should have been but there was one day, one hour of tragedy. I feel quite emotional today in a way." Riflemen crowded around 26-year-old Lt Horsfall, from Chitton, Wiltshire, in his wheelchair. They had not seen him since he was evacuated from the scenes of blood and fire. His treatment at Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital has seemed as if it had been "going on for years", he said, but he was making good progress.

Lt Horsfal did not want to talk too much about himself. Instead he reflected on the public attitude to the troops serving in Afghanistan and, until recently, Iraq. "I've got to say that the general public have been awesome," he said. "The change there has been in the last few years, the understanding and the sympathy felt towards the Army, and especially those who have been wounded, is phenomenal. It's a source of real encouragement to all of us."

Corporal James Gibbins, 25, from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, described the stress and tension the families at home suffer. "The wives are on their own tour of duty as well. We know what's going on day to day, but they don't. It's not easy for them at all," he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, the commanding officer, said his men had fought, "the campaign of their lives". "I'm hugely proud of the extraordinary courage that's been shown," he said. "For me, progress in Sangin has not been dramatic but we have moved forward, indelibly so." The "huge cost" paid was never far from his mind and others in the battalion, he said.

"That cost is utterly painful to me. Each of the 13 heroes killed left a hole in our hearts and we mourn them deeply. There are wives, kids and parents out there who won't be seeing their husband, father and son again."

George Fuller, 92, who applauded as the troops filed past, said he appreciated what the troops were doing. "But I think it's disgusting that so many people have been lost," he added.

Pamela Rodwell, a 43-year-old laboratory technician, said: "I was opposed to the Iraq war and I wonder where we are going in Afghanistan. But today is not about that. It is showing our support and sympathy."

Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Campaign Manager, Stevenage

£34000 - £36000 per annum: Charter Selection: This market leading organisation...

Senior Insight Analyst - SAS

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Senior Analyst Vacancy - Urgent Requriem...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform