TAUNTON-based Royal Marines heading to Afghanistan have been sent messages of support from Taunton Deane Council.

The Royal Marines from 40 Commando, based at Norton Manor Camp, will be undertaking a six-month tour of duty out in the Helmand Province.

As they set off on deployment, the Mayor Cllr Ken Hayward said: "40 Commando is close to the hearts of us all in Taunton Deane and we will be watching their mission with special interest.

"They received the Freedom of the Borough four years ago - the highest honour that we can confer - and we all wish them well and hope for their safe return.

"As a local authority, we also want to make sure that the families of those serving in Afghanistan get maximum support."

The first deployment of 100 troops left for Afghanistan on Wednesday and they will be joined by 600 more Royal Marines in the next two weeks. Their role will involve supporting the elected government in Afghanistan to restore order and maintain stability in Helmand province. The tour of duty is expected to come to an end in the spring.

On their return, Taunton Deane Council plans to meet 40 Commando's commanding officers to discuss how their home-coming should be marked locally.