Soldiers march through Gosport after receiving Afghanistan medals

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Army medics have been met with cheers as they marched through Gosport to mark their safe return from Afghanistan.

The soldiers of 33 Field Hospital gathered in the town today for a medal ceremony and homecoming parade.

12 month old Rose Blythe enjoys an ice cream on West Wittering beach near Chichester, West Sussex. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 30, 2013. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire.

12 month old Rose Blythe enjoys an ice cream on West Wittering beach near Chichester, West Sussex. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 30, 2013. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire.

The 200 troops have just returned from Afghanistan, where they have spent the last six months saving lives as they ran the field hospital at Camp Bastion.

This morning they were each presented with the Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan outside their base at Fort Blockhouse.

They then marched across the bridge at Haslar, and on to the Timespace parade area for a short service of thanksgiving for their safe return.

Hundreds of people lined High Street when the soldiers then marched through the town centre, to the sound of cheers and applause.

12 month old Rose Blythe enjoys an ice cream on West Wittering beach near Chichester, West Sussex. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 30, 2013. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire.

12 month old Rose Blythe enjoys an ice cream on West Wittering beach near Chichester, West Sussex. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 30, 2013. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Archer is 33 Field Hospital’s commanding officer.

He told The News: ‘We are a small Army unit in the navy’s midst but the support we receive from Gosport as a military town is fantastic.

‘Everybody is glad to be home and it is nice for me to see everybody back together here.

‘From a casualty point of view, we had a 20 per cent reduction in the number of casualties we saw, but the complexity of the cases remained the same.

12 month old Rose Blythe enjoys an ice cream on West Wittering beach near Chichester, West Sussex. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 30, 2013. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire.

12 month old Rose Blythe enjoys an ice cream on West Wittering beach near Chichester, West Sussex. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 30, 2013. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire.

‘Next for 33 Field Hospital is a well-earned period of rest.’

There are 200 soldiers who have recently returned from serving on the six-month tour.

Gosport’s High Street came to a standstill as hundreds of people gathered to applaud the soldiers marching with pride.

Shopkeepers abandoned their tills to watch from doorways, and young children clapped and waved flags.

Private John Egan, 26, said: ‘It’s absolutely incredible to have a welcome home like this.

‘It makes you feel really good.

‘It was my first deployment and it was a major learning curve but I have come back so much more confident.

‘I feel like you could throw anything at me now.

‘The most enjoyable part was working as a team.’

Last month, The News went to Afghanistan to meet the soldiers of 33 Field Hospital and see how they are working to keep the medical centre there at the front of world standards.

· To read The News’ special reports from Afghanistan on the work of 33 Field Hospital, click here.