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Bombardier Johnny Holt

As they did so, every member of the crowd rose from their seats and applauded.

Guinness Premiership side Sale Sharks had invited the soldiers to the game on learning that 3RHA has strong links to the north west area. The regiment is also known as ‘the Manchester and Liverpool Gunners’.

Sale Chief Executive Officer James Jennings presented the soldiers with their service medals and also gave a framed, signed club shirt to the regiment.

Major Matthew Murphy, Commander of J Battery 3RHA, said: “It has been brilliant. The club has been very good, not just in allowing the soldiers to receive their medals in this way, but to also allow the families to come in, with half-price tickets. It shows the soldiers that the nation supports them.”

3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, which is based in Germany, had batteries deployed in both Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and Basra, Iraq, during 2008.

Gunner Matthew Power

Two of the regiments soldiers received gallantry awards in the operational honours list announced last week – both were Mentioned in Dispatches.

Among the soldiers being presented with medals on the pitch were Gunner Matthew Power, 25, from Great Sankey in Warrington, who received a service medal to recognise his three-month operational tour in Basra, Iraq, last year. The father-of-two, a former pupil of Great Sankey High School, was watched from the stands by his father Steve and stepmother Susan.

Bombardier Johnny Holt, 25, from Breightmet, Bolton, received a service medal to recognise his tour of duty last year in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. A soldier for over nine years, Bdr Holt has previously completed operational tours in Bosnia, Iraq (twice) and Cyprus. He is a father-of-one and former pupil of Thornleigh Salesian College. Watching in the stands when he received his medal yesterday were many members of his family including his wife Amanda, son Jack, dad Jack, mum Anne, brother and sisters and their families, as well as other family members. He said: “If I’d received my medal in Germany, my family would not have been able to make it, but they are here today, which is great. It has been great to do this, for people to show that they support what soldiers do.”

Gunner Martin Warburton

Gunner Martin Warburton, 22, from Littlebrough, Rochdale, received a medal to recognise his six-month tour of duty in Basra, Iraq, last year. Gnr Warburton is a former pupil of Todmorden High School and has served in the Army for two years. The choice of venue was fitting for Gnr Warburton – he is a keen rugby player, although his preferred code is rugby league, as opposed to the rugby union played yesterday. Gnr Warburton said: “As soldiers, we don’t tend to seek out gratitude, but it was really nice for people to applaud us as they did today. It felt really good being out there on the pitch.”

Speaking about the tour in Iraq, he said: “I learned a lot out there and it made me a better soldier. I was involved in training the Iraqi Army. The key thing was seeing that people support the Iraqi Army.”

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