THOUSANDS of people lined the streets of Worcester city centre to welcome nearly 800 soldiers home.

Members of the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), the Queen’s Royal Hussars and the Grenadier Guards, along with veterans from each of the three regiments and the Royal British Legion and the Band of the Grenadier Guards paraded through the city.

The parade was a homecoming event for both the Mercians and the Hussars, who recently returned from Afghanistan.

It was also a Freedom March for the Mercians and the Grenadier Guards, who were granted the Freedom of Worcester in 1993.

Cheers rose, applause broke out and Union flags fluttered from 11am, when the parade started in Quay Street.

The troops then followed the route via Broad Street, the High Street, The Shambles and St Swithin’s Street to mark Armed Forces Day.

Ahead of the parade music was provided by the Pipes and Drums of the Queen’s Royal Hussars outside the Guildhall.

The expectant crowd was in high spirits as they gathered to witness the proud moment and event got under way to the sound of the bells of All Saints Church, Quay Street, tolling 11 times.

On High Street, people of all ages stood waving Union flags as they clapped and cheered as the parade passed outside the Guildhall, down Pump Street and into The Shambles.

At the end of the march, many troops gathered for a civic reception and medal ceremony in the Guildhall, while the rank and file soldiers and their families made their way to Worcester Racecourse to enjoy a lunch paid for by the county’s businesses.

Captain Alex Gerrard, of 2 Mercian, from Lower Broadheath, near Worcester, said he was proud to have marched through Worcester.

The 29-year-old has served three tours of Aghanistan, but has been home for three months since the last one. He said: “I love the Worcester march, I always feel proud. We’ve done Nottingham and Derby and it’s nice to come through Worcester, to see such a big crowd on such a long route.”

Among those watching was Dot Baker, of Bromsgrove, whose partner Dale Carter, 45, was taking part in the march as secretary of the Worcestershire branch of the Grenadier Guards and a former active serviceman.

The 46-year-old said she attended out of compassion and appreciation for what the troops do.

“It was a wonderful experience.

There was a lot of passion there, especially when the first troops came past. It’s important that you support them on days like this.”

Worcester’s Stuart Leng was also keen to show his thanks.

The 58-year-old said: “I think it is just an opportunity to show appreciation for what they do. They are prepared to come back and march through the city and it’s something a bit special we should all try and take part in.

“There were all age groups and it’s nice to see some younger people here and children.“ Brian and Janice Abdale, of Battenhall, both turned out as a mark of respect for what the troops go through while on active duty and witnessed the parade as it travelled up and down Broad Street.

Mrs Abdale, 74, said: “Some of them are so young and with all that they have to go through I was wondering what they were thinking as they all walk up here.”

Mr Abdale, 73, added: “I thought it was really impressive.

They all looked so proud.”