Campaign honours after demanding desert duty

Soldiers from 32 Regiment, Royal Engineers, receive their Op Herrick tour medals from Major General (Maj Gen) J Bashall CBE whilst on parade in front of their friends and families in Bergen-Hohne after finishing their operational tour of Afghanistan (Operation Herrick XIV).
Soldiers from 32 Regiment, Royal Engineers, receive their Op Herrick tour medals from Major General (Maj Gen) J Bashall CBE whilst on parade in front of their friends and families in Bergen-Hohne after finishing their operational tour of Afghanistan (Operation Herrick XIV).

BRIGHOUSE soldier Sapper Matthew Jones is spending time with his family after a demanding six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Matthew and his colleagues from 32 Engineer Regiment were presented with campaign medals for their service in supporting the NATO-led mission in Lashkar Gah and Nahr-e-Saraj.

In addition to their work setting up military bases and checkpoints, the soldiers had a vital role in clearing convoy routes of deadly, hidden improvised explosive devices and building and upgrading operating bases.

The former Brighouse High School student, who joined the Army in 2005, also helped with building watch towers and gates and managing a water point to ensure that it was safe to drink.

He said: “It was a very busy tour. One of my main jobs was to convert an old former school into a checkpoint which was used to stop the insurgents. We worked on that project for six weeks and had to build four sangers (watch towers), two kilometres of protective walling and two accommodation blocks. It was non-stop work and the heat was the most challenging part - especially in body armour.”

The 32 Engineers are part of the 7th Armoured Brigade, known as the famous Desert Rats, which supported 3 Commando Brigade during the tour. They were instrumental in constructing and upgrading the infrastructure necessary for the British soldiers who were preparing the Afghan National Security forces for transition in Helmand province.

Matthew’s parents, Glenn and Gail, live in Brighouse and travelled to the barracks at Bergen Hohne in Germany to see him presented with his medal by Major General James Bashall.

Matthew, aged 23, said: “It was my first tour and I am really proud. It was an enjoyable but hard year and I have been looking forward to the homecoming for quite a while.

“My parents came out to Germany to meet me and it was nice to see them. Now I want to get back to normal, to relax and have a little freedom.”

He did a range of training exercises in Germany, the UK, Canada and Gibraltar before being deployed in Afghanistan.

The men and women of 32 Engineers are now on four weeks of well-deserved leave before returning to barracks and training for their next mission.