Safely returned from a third tour of Afghanistan, B Company 2nd Battalion The Rifles is to stage a homecoming parade through the town centre on Saturday (30).
In common with The Rifles’ two previous Croydon parades, it is expected that crowds anxious to show their appreciation of the soldiers’ sacrifice and endeavours will throng the route of the march.
In October 2009, Croydon welcomed 2 Rifles home from their first and very tough deployment in Afghanistan. Subsequently, in May 2011, 2 Rifles were granted the Freedom of the Borough of Croydon.
The battalion’s latest deployment to Afghanistan was between August 2014 and February, when they were tasked with protecting the remaining British military mission in the capital Kabul.
Working as part of the Nato force, they were enabling the development of the Afghan National Army Officer Academy and the high-level advising and mentoring of the Afghan Ministry of Defence, and other Afghan government departments.
Many of the Riflemen on parade were employed as escorting troops on patrols across the city. Represented on parade are drivers, gunners, commanders, communicators, vehicle maintainers and logisticians from recent operations.
Among those on parade will be 10 Riflemen from Croydon or south London. The Rifles have drawn recruits from Croydon for a number of years and the association was cemented after two Croydon men were killed in action. Shirley soldier Danny Simpson, a member of 2 Rifles, died in Afghanistan in 2009, and Rifleman Peter Aldridge, a member of 4 Rifles, was killed in action the following year.
Saturday’s celebrations will begin at 12.45pm with a short concert by the Waterloo Band and Bugles of The Rifles in the bell-mouth entrance to the Whitgift Shopping Centre in North End.
At about 1.30pm they will join the parading troops to march at the head of the column to the Town Hall in Katharine Street, where the parade will be inspected by the Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Patricia Hay-Justice.
The parade will end with a march across to Fairfield Halls for a reception hosted by the Mayor.
“As a council, we’re very proud to have this association with The Rifles, and we know that the people of Croydon appreciate everything the men and women of the battalion have achieved in their tours of duty in Afghanistan.
“Their two previous parades through the town centre have been incredibly well supported by residents and visitors, and I’m sure that Saturday’s will be another celebration of their work and safe return.”
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council
Major Mark Shercliff, officer commanding B Coy 2 Rifles, said: “We’re extremely pleased to be returning to Croydon where we’ve always been very warmly welcomed.
“This latest tour of duty was another tough call but, fortunately, we sustained only one serious, but non-fatal, casualty.
“Uppermost in the minds of the parading troops will be two brother Riflemen and sons of Croydon who did not make it home, namely Rifleman Danny Simpson and Rifleman Peter Aldridge.
“In this period of commemoration of World War I, it’s also appropriate to remember the 94 names of the members of the corporation who did not make it home and who are remembered on the memorial in the lobby of the Town Hall.”