THEY braved the horrors of the Second World War and other traumatic conflicts of the 20th century.

Now Hampshire ex-servicemen are urging the people of Southampton to salute the latest generation of soldiers to put their lives on the line.

The elderly veterans are calling for a huge turn-out when members of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment parade through Southampton after returning from Afghanistan.

They made their plea after receiving the HM Armed Forces Veterans Badge at the headquarters of the Totton and Eling branch of the Royal British Legion.

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More than 30 men and women were presented with the badge, including former soldier Douglas Meacher, 71, of Southampton.

He referred to the Wiltshire village where the coffins of soldiers killed in Afghanistan are driven through the streets after their bodies are flown back to RAF Lyneham.

Tapping his badge he said: “I applied for this after seeing the processions through Wootton Bassett. It’s a question of solidarity.”

Ian Middleton, the legion’s branch chairman, joined the recipients in calling for a massive show of support when the Marchwood-based troops stage their homecoming parade on Thursday.

He said: “I’d like to see everyone give them a big hand and let them know that people appreciate what they have done.”

His plea was echoed by the youngest veteran at the ceremony, ex-sailor David Miller, who said: “It’s for the lads.”

Mr Miller, 33, of Totton, was awarded the Afghan Medal after serving aboard HMS York, which provided vital support for the first wave of Royal Marines to storm the country in 2001.

The oldest veteran was Leonard Thomas, 92, of Millbrook, Southampton, who served in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War.

The badges and certificates were presented by Terry Scriven, who was a colonel in the Royal Military Police.

He told them: “When you take your oath of allegiance you are giving up a lot, including your safety and security. You can be called up to operational duties at a moment’s notice, putting your life on the life.

“It’s important that the nation recognises the great demands placed upon you.”