Royal Marines abused by anti-war protesters as they hold homecoming parade
A homecoming march by Royal Marines returning after a bloody tour of Afghanistan was hijacked yesterday by anti-war protesters.Â
Five militants waving Iraqi flags screamed ‘genocide’ and ‘not in my name’ at soldiers from 3 Commando as they marched from Buckingham Palace to Parliament.Â
Some of the protesters also tried to use a megaphone to drown out the Royal Marines band but were beaten when onlookers began to clap and cheer to overcome them.Â
One of the militants had to be restrained by police until the 120 servicemen and women had gone into the House of Commons, where they were met by Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell and other dignitaries.Â
However, it proved the only slight on what was a special day for 3 Commando, which has suffered more fatalities than any other brigade on their last tour.Â
Some 33 of the 3,500 elite unit died, and hundreds more were injured on the gruelling six-month winter tour in southern Helmand province.Â
Despite the demonstrations, the soldiers were cheered on by dozens of well-wishers and tourists who gathered outside Wellington barracks in London.Â
Lance Corporal Frank Wyatt, 25, from Oxford, said: ‘People are increasingly appreciating what we do and it’s a real boost to know the country is behind you.’Â
Police said the five protesters maintain a constant presence in Parliament Square.
3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines is the elite fighting force of the Royal Navy.
The 3,500-strong brigade is an amphibious rapid reaction force, highly trained for combat in extreme weather conditions and on difficult terrain.
Protesters were eventually drowned out by applause from others
On the last tour they were involved in operation Sond Chara, or Red Dagger, the biggest offensive since the Iraq invasion of 2003 which involved attacking insurgent strongholds near Nad-e-Ali in Helmand.
The troops also took part in operation Diesel, a raid on a Taliban drug factory in Upper Sangin Valley.
The number of UK troops killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 169, after a soldier from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards was killed in an explosion in Helmand province on 19 June.
Armed Forces minister Bill Rammell said: ‘It is absolutely right that we honour the troops from 3 Commando in this way.
‘I have seen first hand how committed and dedicated they are and we must thank them for all they have achieved in Afghanistan, particularly in controlling the narcotics trade and ensuring the elections were as secure as possible.’
A small crowd gathered outside Wellington barracks to cheer on the troops as they marched down Birdcage Walk, through Parliament Square and through the Carriage Gate to the Royal Marines Band
One young boy waved a union jack while others including tourists from Germany, the U.S. and Japan clapped and cheered.
Lance Corporal Frank Wyatt, 25, from Oxford, said the support made a difference.
He said: ‘People need to appreciate what we’re doing and the more they know about it the better.’
Medical Assistant Roxanne Starsmeare, 23, from Taunton in Somerset, had just completed her first six-month tour of Afghanistan.
She said: ‘For the last three months I was one of the front-line medics and treated everything from cut knees to troops who had been seriously injured, of which there were unfortunately a lot.
‘It was hard work but I learned a lot and made some good friends. I think people are increasingly appreciating what we do an it’s a real boost to know the country is behind you.’
Onlooker Sterling Lacey, 73, a retired teacher, said: ‘It’s the last we can do to show our gratitude for all they’ve been through.’
Last weekend some 30,000 people turned out to show support for the troops on Armed Forces Day. 3 Commando will be holding a day of remembrance for fallen colleagues in Exeter on Saturday, where they are based, and some 1,000 personnel from the Brigade are expected to attend.
The five who shouted abuse are protestors who maintain a constant presence in Parliament Square to demonstrate against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Scotland Yard said there were no arrests.