THOUSANDSof people lined the streets of Uxbridge this morning to welcome home 63 Royal Squadron RAF Regiment.

The unit has just returned from a six-month tour of Afganistan.

Crowds burst into applause and waved Union Jack flags as the parade, lead by the band of the RAF college, marched from Uxbridge Magistrates Court through the town.

The squadron marched with colours flying, and carrying weapons with fixed bayonets.

Michelle Strachan, 53, travelled from Middlesborough to see her son, Andrew, march in the parade.

She told the Hillingdon Times: "I feel so proud of him, I was so excited to be here today, I had tears in my eyes. Andrew looks so tall and handsome in his uniform, it really made me emotional."

Michelle's sister, Suzanne Vowden, 51, came to Uxbridge from Devon to show her support for her nephew. She said: "It has been fantastic, we are so proud of all of them." She added: "We have been supporting them the whole time they were in Afganistan, sending them food parcels and little things from home. But we are so glad to have them all back, we are very proud."

Michelle added: "You worry so much when they are away, you can't help yourself, but they are all doing such a great job out there, and we will always be proud."

More than 20,000 people watched as the parade marched through the High Street, stopping outside the Civic Centre for an address by Mayor of Hillingdon, councillor Shirley Harper-O'Neill.

She welcomed the squadron, and called for three cheers from the crowd, before she granted permission for the troop to exercise its freedom of entry to the borough.

Leader of the council, councillor Ray Puddifoot, said: "This is a marvellous event, and we in Hillingdon are so proud of them all."

He added: "It was very emotional watching them walk through the town, and we are delighted that Hillingdon has been the home for the servicemen and woman from RAF Uxbridge."

The squadron has now returned to the base at RAF Uxbridge for an afternoon of celebrations.