HOMECOMING service-man Tim Roberts swapped the gunfire of Helmand Province for the peace and quiet of an English country garden – and a party on Saturday night with family and friends.
Tim (28), a gunner with the RAF Regiment, has been on a gruelling, seven-month tour of Afghanistan, rotating between driving a Jackal armoured vehicle and making helicopter pick-ups of injured soldiers in the thick of the fighting.
Tim said: “This was my second tour.
“The first one was four months and this was seven so it was a lot harder.
“It was also a winter tour and it was some of the worst weather I have seen in my life. It was so cold and wet. I think at one point it went down to -15C.”
Tim’s work was split into a two-week rotation, switching from driving Jackals to picking up wounded soldiers with the medical emergency response team.
He said: “You have got to land where the lads are wounded and nine out of ten times that’s in the middle of a contact. You are always getting off the back of a helicopter and it’s (the fighting) is still going on.”
Tim and girlfriend Louise Robertson (28) travelled from their Lake District home to Spalding to be with his mum and dad, Trudy and Jonathan, and family including his grandparents, Tony and Sheila Skillington.
As well as being reunited with pals from school and college, Tim discovered he had become a big hit with the girl next door.
Pupils at Monkshouse Primary School were asked to write something for a “community hero” project and Molly Smith (8) decided Tim was her hero.
Molly’s project – complete with a write-up and pictures – was on display at the party.
Tim’s mum, Trudy, said: “Tim thought it was amazing. Everybody did. She is a lovely little girl.”
Sadly Tim lost his granddad, Charlie Roberts (86), last November but he was allowed home for the funeral and saluted the coffin as it was borne out of church.
The ex-Royal Marine was involved in the Italian campaign during the Second World War and took a big interest in Tim’s career in the forces.
Tim attended Gleed Boys’ School in Spalding before going to the town’s high school to take A-levels and then on to Sheffield for his degree.