WIVES and girlfriends at an Abingdon army base wept tears of joy as they were reunited with soldiers returning from a six-month tour of Afghanistan.
They rushed into the arms of their loved ones at a special homecoming reception at Dalton Barracks yesterday afternoon.
Families travelled from across the country to welcome 123 troops from Four Logistic Support Regiment, including seven from Bicester-based 23 Pioneer Regiment, who have been serving out of Camp Bastion in Helmand Province.
Toddlers wore ‘Welcome Home Daddy’ T-shirts and some soldiers were reunited with babies born while they were away on tour.
Melanie Collett, 30, from Abingdon, brought 10-week-old daughter Daisy to see her dad, Lance Corporal Justin Collett, 28.
She said: “Justin came home to see Daisy when she was just six days old, which was very emotional.
“Hopefully he will be back for a while now – it was difficult coping on my own when I was pregnant, but you just have to cope – you have no choice.”
Lance Corporal Collett added: “I got to spend about 12 days with Daisy when I came back on leave but it wasn’t long enough.
“I’ve been in the Army for 12 years and Mel and I have been together for seven years but we never imagined that I would be away when Daisy was born.
“It was my second tour of Afghanistan – you can never properly relax, even when you are on your patrol base.”
Major Lee Whitbread, 39, second in command of Four Logistic Support Regiment, said troops had to face temperatures of up to 50C in Helmand Province.
He added: “Potentially it could be the last time this set of troops go out to Afghanistan, if troops are withdrawn in 2014, but if things change we would step up and go again.
“Troops missed their wives and children dreadfully but they can focus on the mission. It’s tougher for the families back home to be separated from their loved ones.”
Unit welfare officer Captain Andy Robertson said trips to Legoland and other theme parks were organised for families while the soldiers were on tour.
He said: “There’s a lot of fear and anxiety for the families when the troops are away so we tried to arrange as many activities as we could.
“A couple of soldiers sustained minor non-battle injuries but thankfully there were no major battle injuries or casualties.”
Lieutenant Paul Bedford, 31, from Abingdon, was reunited with wife Kerry, 26, and daughter Chloe, six.
The troop commander said: “There were a few scary moments but the guys’ training has been excellent and they pulled out all the stops on tour – it’s great to be back.”
Staff Sergeant Rob Jones, lives on the base with wife Caroline, 34, and their sons Tom, 18, David, 14, Ryan, 13, Alan, 12, and Jake, nine.
He said: “I try to have a chat with my family every night – I’m really glad to be back and it could be the last time away in Afghanistan.”
David added: “Dad’s really funny – it’s so nice to have him around.”
Troops in Four Logistic Support Regiment supply units on the front line with kit, ammunition, fuel, rations and water.
There will be a welcome home parade in Abingdon town centre on Tuesday, November 27.