GWENT Territorial Army soldiers received a warm welcome home in Abertillery after returning from recent tours in Cyprus and Afghanistan.

Territorial Army soldiers from D Troop of 211 South Wales Battery, 104 Regiment Royal Artillery, returned from Operation Herrick in Afghanistan and UN peacekeeping mission Operation Tosca in Cyprus in September and on Saturday they were welcomed back with a regimental dinner.

Duties in Cyprus included patrolling the UN buffer zone between the northern Turkish Cypriot and southern Greek Cypriot territories.

Lance Bombardier Hannah Byrne, 29, lives in Govilion with her fiance Tim Jarvis, 30, she joined the TA around ten years ago through the Army Training Corps at university in Lampeter.

LBdr Byrne, who was recently made redundant from her civilian job said: “We were carrying out peacekeeping duties in the buffer zone in Cyprus.

“It was very different from previous tours we’ve done in Iraq and Canada. Working in the buffer zone was really interesting.”

For Bombadier Keith Hughes, 48, who lives in Rogerstone with his wife Joanne, 42, this tour was his second in Cyprus during his 31-year TA career.

He said: “It’s a lot different than the first time I was out there in 1996. It’s nice to be appreciated when you come back. It’s nice to be back with the wife.”

Lieutenant Paul German, 34, from Caerphilly, Gunner James Robinson, 19, from Brynmawr, and LBdr Richard Purkiss, 43, from Abergavenny, were also part of Operation Tosca in Cyprus.

Gunner Sam Fletcher, 24, from Ebbw Vale, returned from Operation Herrick in Afghanistan after spending six months in Helmand province, as a Desert Hawk operator controlling unmanned aerial vehicles.

He said: “This was my first tour. It was definitely good. I didn’t really want to come back. It’s quick a shock to the system coming back – I miss the weather.”

Commanding officer Colonel Phil Shepherd-Walwyn said: “It’s been a pretty full on year for the regiment.

“This weekend they are running health and safety and equipment care training sessions, which isn’t particularly exciting, but necessary, but the primary reason for the celebration this evening is to welcome home the guys and girls.”