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
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
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
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
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
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

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice