THE last commando group of Royal Marines to serve in Afghanistan is returning to the UK, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said yesterday.
After more than a decade of operational deployments, troops from 40 Commando Royal Marines lowered the Royal Navy’s white ensign at their main operating base – MOB Price – before flying out.
Servicemen from 40 Commando were the first British troops to deploy to the country in 2001, securing Bagram airfield and going on to patrol the streets of Kabul.
Since then, the marines have served in successive deployments in Sangin, Nahr-e Saraj and Musa Qala in Helmand Province.
The symbolic lowering of the ensign at Price on Saturday in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand was the last time the flag will fly in the region.
The MoD said the equivalent of more than 14,000 marines have served in Afghanistan across 12 deployments from the 7,200-strong Royal Marine Corps, while many others have been attached to other units.
The Royal Marines have been awarded nearly 200 honours for acts of bravery and distinguished service in Afghanistan, including a George Cross, seven Distinguished Service Orders and ten awards of the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, one of them posthumous.
The commando group has handed over to 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
During their deployments, the group helped develop the Afghan national army and local Afghan police units to take on responsibility for security.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The courage of the Royal Marines, and indeed all who have served in Afghanistan over the past decade, has been truly outstanding.”
In the past year, the number of UK bases across Helmand has fallen from 80 to 12 as they are handed to Afghan forces or dismantled.