12/11/2011 Remembrance Week


Gethin Jones is in Afghanistan to honour those that have fought there, and reflect on all the other servicemen and women who have taken part in past conflicts.

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I'm in Camp Bastion, Helmand province, the heart of British


operations in Afghanistan. We'll be celebrating the heroic jobs that


our armed forces do, as well as reflectsing on those who've given


their lives, both here and in past conflicts around the world. This is


Tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday, the day we honour those who have given


their lives for their country. In the lead up to this National


Service of Remembrance, we tell the real stories of the people who


march past the Cenotaph on Whitehall. Coming up on today's


programme: A former paratrooper remembers his biggest battle on the


Falkland Islands. Your instinct is to take cover. But you're in a


minefield. We hear from the forces' original


sweet heart, Dame Vera Lynn. thought, right, just a lipstick


will have to do and that's how I worked, with my kaki and lipstick.


That was a necessity. And I'm privileged to be in the


operation room on a front-line patrol base.


By using all the intelligence they have in here, they've identified


The term band of brothers is often used to describe the camraderie in


the ormed forces. The -- armed forces. The next story shows how


deep the bonds are and how they can last forever.


In 1982, these four young lads were just 17 years old and true brothers


in arms. 29 years on, Mark Eyles-Thomas


fondly remembers his friends. Jason Bert was an East Ender, a


Londoner, very good looking, handsome chap. He knew that and


could work that with the ladies. Neil Grouse talked to his family


all the time, you know, his sister, his brother. He was very family


orientated. Ian Scrivens was a lad from Yeovil, in the West Country,


and talked funny and had a tractor, but he didn't. Mark, Jason, Neil


and Ian were junior Paras, the first step to becoming part of one


of the most elite units in the British Army, the Parachute


Regiment. How can you sum up being a paratrooper? When you pass out,


it's the proudest day of your life. I'm not sure that a lot of people


understand what you've gone through or will ever understand. It doesn't


matter how bad the situation is, you're still expected to go on.


There's still more you could do. I've been part of one of the


greatest regiment that the British Army have had ever. I will love


that to the day I go. In April 1982, their unit was sent to the Falkland


Islands, a remote UK overseas territory in the South Atlantic,


which had been invaded by Argentinean forces. You're with


your friends. We were cocky little 16-year-olds. Imagine what we're


going to be like now, when we get back. We're going to be 18, medal,


money, oh, everyone's going to love But for these soldiers, the reality


of war was about to hit home, when the order was given to secure mown


Court Suzanne Lenglen. The date of this mission was -- secure Mount


Longdon, the date of the mission was set. We got together to say


happy 18th birthday to Neil Grouse. We congregated on his basher, where


he was sleeping. We had a cup of tea and a chat about saying happy


birthday and let's hope it's a good party this evening and all that


kind of thing. And you know, because of what we're doing tonight,


when we get back, we'll make sure it's a super special one. But for


this group of boys, success would come at a high price.


As they prepared to go to battle, three Paras commanding officer


addressed the men He ended with the words "May your God go with you."


It's the first time I thought, oh, hang on, some of us aren't coming


back from this. The realisation hit me like nothing else had hit me


throughout the period I'd been there.


Mount Longdon was six kilometres from the base, therefore the


element of surprise was vital. As they moved forward, they walked


straight no a minefield. All hell broke loose from that moment. The


whole place just erupts with a firefight. You're instinct is


immediately to go to ground and take cover. But you're in a


minefield. My whole body knew what was going on. The weapon was


shaking in my hand, you know. Whether that be from the cold, from


the intensity of the moment, from fear, it doesn't matter. I just


related to what was happening to me at that time. This is the biggest


fire work display that you have ever seen in your life, but with no


fun behind it. It was sheer violence to kill you. Mark, Jason,


Ian and Neil made it through the minefield unscathed and continued


their advance with their unit to Mount Longdon. The initial parts of


getting up to Longdon were chaos. It's pitch dark. You would pick up


the occasional silhouette moving. It could be an Argentinean, could


be one of your own. You really didn't know. You could hear the


Spanish being spoken or whatever, because it was that close. But it


would be right of you, left of you, you know. It was absolute chaos.


When they reached the base of Mount Longdon, the atmosphere changed


dramatically. It was a full moon that night. You can see the glint


of the bayonets and the Metal. You could see the breath on the blokes.


Time just stops. It just stands still. It's just, there is nothing.


No-one's talking. There is no noise whatsoever. Then charge. This has


got to happen quickly and all the time, we're running across that


ground, we're vulnerable. They were under attack from Argentinean


snipers, positioned on high ground. As we were running, I felt Jas go


down. I acrawled back to retrace the steps. There's Jas. He was


laying with his face down. I turn him onto one shoulder and he had


been shot. 17-year-old Jason Bert died instantly, but Mark had no


time to grieve, as another of his friends was badly wounded. It was


then Scrivs, called out again to say "I'm actually with Neil. He's


in a bad way." Scrivs had stabilised him and put a dressing


over the wound. This was it in real action, where a man was trying to


do everything for his friend. Scrivs said to me, "We've got to


move him. We can't stay here. He's out in the open." Eventually the


sniper was going to get us. I put my hand on to say, "-- "Right we'll


move him." As I went to put my hand ond his shoulder, he was shot.


second of Mark's close friend Ian Scrivens had lost his life in the


line of duty. On his birthday, and in a life-threatening condition,


Neil Grouse was stretchered off the mountain. The held him and I think


he knew that this was it. He spoke of his family, of how much he loved


them. Incredibly brave with his impending fate. Yes, he thanked me.


He said... "Thanks, Tom" Two words. Just personal moments, you know,


very difficult. Mark's three best friends had all made the ultimate


sacrifice. You know it's all over. Jas is dead,


Ian Scrivens is dead, Neil Grouse These three friends and the other


37 paratroopers who lost their lives are commemorated here at the


Aldershot Cemetery. I love coming here. I sit on a bench, have a


drink, have a chat, tell them about what's going on in my life. These


are just their new bed spaces. That's where they rest. The truth


is you're just coming to visit Afghanistan has been a war zone for


over 30 years. As a result, local communities have been destroyed.


Everything we take for granted back home, like running water,


electricity and education, are non- existent here. But there's a team


within the British armed forces who are working alongside the local


people to change this. I'm flying to Checkpoint Jeka,


which is in the heart of Helmand's infamous Green Zone. In the past,


areas like these have been ruined by brutal fighting. I'm here to


find out from sergeant Neil Shinner how British troops are helping to


rebuilt these local innocent communities. Back home in the UK,


we hear a lot about the bad news about the fighting, about the


kinetic activity. But it's not all negative. There are positives as


well. You're part of that. It can be very positive. I'm a


stabilisation operator. Stabilisation seems to be the big


word here. What exactly does that mean? Put it into context, within


the UK, we take everything for granted. We've got our schools. We


have got our hospitals, medical centres, decent roads. However,


within this country, there is nothing. So British troops like


Neil are working hand in hand with Afghan soldiers and civilians in a


number of community projects. They build roads and drill wells, but


the most important thing is education. So Neil is taking me to


see a newly built school. The school is not far from this


checkpoint. We're going to be on foot patrol. But we still have to


be in all the gear and my particular favourite, the nappy. It


might not look the best, but it's all about protection.


Just out there is Helmand. That's where the danger is. We have the


team around us, just in case. The moment we walk out of these gates,


we'll be exposed to the threat of attack. We're in the heart of Green


Zone, then? Yes. Very peaceful, isn't it? At the moment. However, I


will probably say two years ago, it would have been a different story


around this area. That's what it is, it's predominantly around here,


it's just a farming community. We're talking wheat, corn, a lot of


them have fruit trees, pomegranate. This is the school. This is it?


It's not the kind of standard you would probably see in the UK. So,


this is a typical classroom. As you can see, anybody in the UK's


looking at this will probably think "it doesn't look much." once we


have carpets down, the rugs, the pillows that they sit on, a white


board, the teacher, we've got kids learning. The school is a massive


part of any community. So all the time you're trying to instill that


trust back into the authority, the local authority and the local


police. You can do that through a I think we have our first pupils.


Hello. Shake hands? Hello. When you can count to ten, I'll give you my


watch, OK? The children I've met today will finally have a base,


somewhere to come to every day to get their education in this


fantastic set up. Hopefully, they won't be influenced in the future


by the bad, by the Taliban. They'll take a different route, that route


will be a peaceful one and a normal As we head back to the base, the


atmosphere changes around us. Have they seen something? Oh my God,


they have been spooked by something. Such the strangest thing, at such a


peaceful community. It can change just like that. Improvements are


being made, so, hopefully, these children will have a safe place to


live very soon. We have a saying out here that the people are the


prize. Everybody who operates out here does believe that. Eventually,


we will be able to leave and leave this country in a better state than


what we found it, when we first Still to come: We hear the


courageous story of a Royal Marine who survived a Taliban bomb. After


that, I knew this is it, nothing's going to stop me, simple as.


This series is all about exceptional bravery, courage and,


in the case of our next story, the ability to cope in extreme


environments. In the Second World War, Burma rifleman Major Neville


Hogan was part of an elite special force known as the Chindits.


Chindits role was to challenge the Japanese at jungle warfare. We


became special because we went behind the lines. The Chindits were


the pioneers of jungle guerrilla warfare and the brainchild of Major


General Orde Wingate, the British man who named them after a feature


of Burmese temples. Chindit, dragons in Burma, they keep away


the evil spirit. Wingate being Wingate, Chindit, a forceful name -


Chindit. Before the war, Burma was part of the British Empire, but in


1942 the Japanese invaded in a bid to control the country's natural


resources and extend their power into South East Asia. The only way


to forge a successful counterattack was to have a special army of


soldiers. You trained to be a Chindit, you had to survive in the


jungle. You did everything at the double. You never walked. You


trotted the whole way. The only way to get deep into the Burma jungle


behind enemy lines was to fly in by gliders. You are up in this glider


and you are freezing cold. The next moment and the pilot said, and they


have released us - there's no more noise. Then you are coming down, it


is getting hotter and hotter. You can feel the heat going up your


nose. We were supposed to come down at 75mph. We were coming down at


150mph because of the hills. They didn't cater for the hills. It


didn'ts the paddy field, hell breaks out. -- it hits the paddy


field, hell breaks out. There's weeds coming up through the window


and you are sitting there and you can't do a damn thing about it.


After landing, Neville rounded up his secret army and prepared for


battle. My full title was Recognisance Platoon Commander. I


go ahead of the column, the column is 400 men - that's a lot of men -


and a hundred mules. I have to find where light planes can land to take


away our wounded. On 5th March, 1944, 3,000 Chindits, Wingate among


them, began their mission into the heart of Burma. They faced two


enemies - the Japanese and the jungle. There's the jungle with the


trees with the creepers coming down. You have to hack your way through.


Then there's the elephant grass. That's grass seven-foot-high. They


have sharp edges and you have to walk through it. Your clothes are


torn. Then the dust coming down on you. Sometimes a column would do


eight miles a day, starting at 4.30am in the morning, finishing at


5.00pm, doing a 12-hour day. You only do eight miles because the


jungle is that thick. All I can remember is the man in front of me,


or the mule with his tale in front of me swishing. The Chindits were


an international fighting force. had some wonderful troops. I was


born and bred in Burma, and it was tough for us. I never saw one


person go back one foot. If we went forward in line, we were all there,


to fight. Initially, the Chindits had taken the enemy by surprise,


but soon the Japanese were fighting back. I was a soldier. I took what


came. Even in the jungle when you are ambushed, your heart goes into


your mouth and fear takes over. Then you fight. And you keep on


fighting. And you are all over the place looking. Fire and fire quick.


Get them first before they got you. Then when you stand up, "Oh my God,


I'm still alive!" You are glad to be alive, that's all. To survive


behind enemy lines for long periods, the Chindits had to be supplied by


air, but this wasn't reliable, so they had to be resourceful. You get


bamboo as thick as that and the green is hard. Where the join is,


that is the soft spot. You cut that, there is water in there to drink.


The British boys are not used to that, it is about that long. Bamboo


you must cut upwards and you must go where the join is. They do it


this way. The foliage was so dense it was easy to get lost so it was


important to follow strict instructions, even when going to


the toilet. You had to go in pairs. You walked about 10, 15, 20 paces


away from the column, the two of you, then you would turn your backs


to each other and then you did ten paces out and you dug a hole and


you did your business and you came back - they don't come back,


they've done a wrong turn. Surviving in these conditions was


tough. Always hungry, always dirty. Always wet. You were wet with the


rain, you were wet with fear. All your clothes were always damp and


wet. Just tired of being tired. I cried at night sometimes. All you


can think of is food. So Neville and his comrades ate whatever they


could find. I thought about monkey, monkey flesh is very lovely. They


only live on berries. They had blowpipes because they couldn't


fire a gun because it would give our position away. Neville fought


and survived for four months, deep in the heart of the Burmese jungle.


But the severe conditions caught up with him in 1944. I was in hospital


having been bitten by rats. I had pneumonia and malaria. Then Dame


Vera Lynn came round. I said, "Kiss me, Vera." And I can tell everybody


you kissed me. I met her again a few years back. I said, "You kissed


me on 25th July 1944." She said, "How can you remember that?" I said,


"I was 21 years old!" Neville was then sent to release interns from a


Japanese camp where he met a girl called Glory Rose. By the time I


got to her camp, there was no fighting, the Japanese had


retreated. I was amazed at what he had done during the war. I didn't


believe anybody could do so much. She was cooking, making rice cakes.


I thought he was a bit of a nuisance, disturbing me cooking!


LAUGHTER Happy, always smiling. A damn good cook. I'm very proud of


him. Neville and Glory Rose were married in 1949 and celebrated


their 62nd anniversary this year. For Neville and his fellow Chindits,


their legacy lives on. What the SAS is doing now, they are taking it


from us. And I could be quite dangerous even now, I think. We are


proud that we were the Chindits. Everyone did their bit. Otherwise


you could not have overrun Burma. Every single one was a warrior. I'm


This year marks the tenth anniversary of the British mission


here in Afghanistan. For many, it's changed their lives forever. Pete


and Laura met when they were 16- years-old. But little did they know


it would be the beginning of a very special journey. As corny as it


sounds, I was the waitress and he worked in the kitchen. I really


enjoyed working with her. She had a great personality and sense of


humour and good looks - that always helps! We had a little bit of an


involvement then, but it never became anything special, so we go


back a long way. But they soon drifted apart and Pete decided he


needed a serious challenge. I don't know what went off in my head, what


about the Marines? Why not? Let's give it a go. I definitely felt


when I had that green lid on my head I was six foot tall and


bullet-proof. In 2008, Pete was nearing the end of his second tour


of Afghanistan when his life was turned upside-down. That morning we


were packing up the vehicles, the mission had been finished and we


were on the move back to Camp Bastion and then it would have only


been ten or 11 days and I would have been flying home. I was the


second to last vehicle and we literally started to move off and


that's all I can remember to be honest. Pete's vehicle had driven


over a buried bomb. He lost both his legs, suffered severe burns and


had a fractured spine. My first real memory of it was I was lying


in Selly Oak Hospital and obviously I couldn't sit up. In my head I was


thinking, "This is it, that's me, done and dusted." What have I got


for myself? Got no legs. Can't sit up. Can't do anything. Who is going


to love me? Despite being a double amputee, the first hurdle Pete had


to face was a major back operation which was successful. After that, I


knew, right, this is it, nothing is going to stop me now, simple as.


This is done, I'm getting out of here. In an awe-inspiring three-


months Pete was ready to be fitted with two prosthetic legs. When I


stood up for the first time, it was brilliant. I just felt like


nothing's going to get in my way. Pete quickly mastered the art of


walking, but this was just the beginning. The opportunity came up


to do two weeks skiing in Bavaria. I thought, "Let's find out!" It did


take a lot of messing about to get the balance. I wouldn't know where


to start trying to guess how many falls I had, like, per day, or per


week. Now, it's brilliant. I loved flying down the piste, at stupid


miles an hour, waiting to get told off! Through the grapevine, Laura


learnt of Pete's injuries. I wanted us to be friends again because I


realised that actually life is too short and it was very nearly him


not coming home. So that was when I thought, right, stop being too


proud, so I dropped him a message and quickly got a reply back.


typed back to her and I said, "Of course I remember you." I couldn't


really forget! We started chatting and then we met up. When he gave me


a hug outside the pub, it was like we have rewound the last couple of


I knew then, when we first met up, I felt, yeah, I do still have


feelings for her then, obviously, if I'm feeling like this right now.


It didn't take long for there to be a bit of a romance starting up.


Then he told me that the ski season was just about to start, so


although we went on our first proper date and we could be a


couple, he was going to leave the country for six months to learn how


to ski and to ski race that. Was probably the big turning point in


my life. By now Pete was already racing for the Combined Services


Disabled Ski Team. Now firmly together, Laura was there for him


wherever he was in the world. I've had a bad day on the slope or


anything, then I know, phone her up, have a chat to her. Then I know,


funnily enough, about five minutes later, I'll have a great big smile


back on my face. The other side of that, there are


the highs when he's picked up gold medals. I've had phone calls at


work to say "I've just won a gold." The one thing you want to do is be


there and give that person a big hug and a kiss. When possible,


Laura travels to be by his side. Cheering him on from the side lines


isn't always easy. When I heard that he'd crashed out, the course


was on hold. There was no other racers allowed on and that the


doctor was with him. That was very much a hands over the face and just


basically waiting for every minute to tick by until I saw something


that showed me that he was OK. March 2010, Pete was asked to carry


the Paralympics torch in Vancouver. That day was extra special. Laura


was out there and it was my 25th birthday. I couldn't ask for


anything better to be honest while time that he was carrying the


torch I had the proper cheesey, proud, girlfriend grin.


As Pete prepared to leave with his team-mates, he had a sudden change


of plan. Next minute, he gets off the bus and I'm thinking "What are


you doing?" We've already said goodbye and had the tears. I'm


waiting now to wave you off into the distance. I got my phone out of


my pocket and I text a couple of the lads on the coach to say "Do us


a favour, just get thor look this way." He's texting on his phone.


You've come off the bus. We're going to have go goodbye again and


you're texting somebody. What are you doing? I'm talking to her,


saying yes, darling, of course darling, I'm going to miss you,


very much and keeping an eye out to see when everyone's looking. She


can see me. "What are you looking at? "I look and everyone's there.


Just get down on one knee and asked her to marry me. I was just so


blown away. Obviously the answer was yes. Then the next thought was


"You'd better be able to get back up. Because I certainly can't live


lift you off the floor." Just after getting engaged, Pete was offered


the chance of a lifetime, to be part of the British Paralympics ski


team. Just have to wait and see what happens. Obviously he's


representing this country again, this time on the ski slopes rather


than on the battlefield. I am very proud of that. Proud of what he


does. It's been a roller coaster ten years for Pete and Laura and it


doesn't look like stopping. In February this year, they found out


they were expecting. We've got a lot going on. We have the baby


arriving at the start of the ski season and a wedding at the end.


Lots to get organised. Laura's brilliant. Simple as. She's


helped me out in so many ways. just love having Pete in my life. I


couldn't imagine not having him around. She's one in a million. I


love her to bits. I'm delighted to tell you that


Laura gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, called Ava.


Congratulations to Pete and Laura Over 9,500 British troops are


deployed here in Afghanistan. In the lead up to Remembrance Sunday,


I'm proud to be introducing their stories and those from past


conflicts around the world. Since the beginning of the Second


World War, over 16,000 men and women have given their lives


serving their country. The National Memorial Arboretum in the heart of


the Staffordshire is the UK's year- round centre of remembrance, a


living and lasting memorial to commemorate and celebrate them all.


In July, Her Majesty the Queen visited to pay her respects to


those who laid down their lives In the Second World War, British


efforts to keep morale high gave rise to some of our most treasured


entertainers. Dame Vera Lynn is without doubt the


original forces sweet heart. It all started when she joined the


Entertainment National Service Association, known as ENSA.


boys had their own idea of what they stood for, every night


something awful. So many people who had never been on stage before,


suddenly decided they wanted to be a performer. They weren't always


that good. Formed in 1939 by impressario Basil Dean and the


British Government, an army of performers were posted around the


world to entertain troops during the Second World War. If you were a


working artist and you joined up, you were made good use of, I can


assure you! They may not have been fighting, but they certainly about


their bit. Dame Vera was just 20 when she signed up for ENSA. She


already had plenty of experience. My mother put me on the stage when


I was seven. I went through all the singing, the dance bands, before I


started in the real profession. It was great experience. It's a good


background, you know, to be able to hold people's attention in a smoky


hall in a working men's club, with no microphones. By 1940, Dame


Vera's sweet voice and girl next door appeal was already a huge hit


with our armed forces. I'd been broadcasting to overseas and the


boys and I thought it would be nice to go and see them in person, you


know, actually where they were fighting and sing to them as me and


not just over the radio. So I approached ENSA and suggested that


I could go overseas somewhere. They said, well, where do you want to


go? I said, well, Europe gets a lot of ENSA parties, so I want to go


somewhere where they're not getting a lot of entertainment, if any.


They said, well, Burma is the only place that nobody wants to go to. I


said, well, that's where I want to In 1944, Dame Vera arrived in Burma


and even though everything was rationed, it was still important


for the young singer to look her best. I took a nice pretty dress


with me, because I thought I would need it. I only wore it once. It


was much too hot. So I just lived in kaki all the time. Make up, of


course, was a no-no. I tried it once and was per spiring. It all


came off, so I thought, right, just a lipstick will have to do. That's


how I worked in my kaki and a lipstick. That's was a necessity!


And a little bit of lippie went a long way, as thousands turned out


to see her. I never imagined singing to 6,000 in one go. It was


rather wonderful really, you know, just to be a little platform and


look out and see all these chaps out there, spread quite a long way


away. It was rather nice really to be the only girl among so many


chaps. People ask me "How did they treat you?" I said, "Absolutely


perfect gentlemen they all were. Treated me with the upmost respect.


There was never any saucy calls or anything like that." But it wasn't


only large groups Dame Vera sung to. On one occasion two injured


soldiers had a special request. They were poorly. They couldn't go


to the concert. So I went to visit them and sat on their bed and


chatted. They said "Will you sing We'll Meet Again?" I sang it to


them # Don't know where, don't know


when... # It's just something from home and


that means everything. This became her signature tune. Wherever she


went her pianist went as well. It didn't always go to plan. He sat


down to play the piano and the sides fell off, clatter, clatter.


Some of them jumped on the stage, picked the sides up, put it back


and carried on. Mucking in with the boys and making


the best of a challenging situation was all part of the job.


appreciate what the boys were doing, you had to live with them. I


wouldn't have felt comfortable, you know, if I'd lived a few miles out


in a hotel. Goodness knows where the hotels are. No hotels. There


weren't even any houses, let alone hotels. And being in tropical


climates, she had to learn and adapt quickly. You had a bowl of


soup. You'd have to be very nifty with your spoon, get it under the


flies and whip out a spoonful quickly. That's what you had to do.


I don't know what I lived on, I came back all right, a bit thinner


than I went. I wasn't very fat to start with! During the Second World


War, thousands of ENSA artists performed over 2.5 million shows


worldwide. I used to go in and just talk to them. This is what they


just wanted. They didn't care whether I sang or not, just that I


was there, having a chat, talking about London and the Blitz, to be


able to pass on messages and tell them "Don't worry about us. We're


fine." Getting plenty to eat, you know, to reassure them that they


were -- we were doing all right. For the troops who had been away


from home for so long, the morale boost was massive. The boys


appreciated so much all the ENSA artists going out there. One chap


said, "Now you're here, home doesn't seem so far away. "Dame


Vera sang to British troops in Egypt, India, and Burma and will


always be our Forces sweet heart. The war brought out a lot of talent,


you know, some not so good, but a lot of stars were made through


entertaining during the war. It's one of the most important things


that I did in my career. I always look back on it with happiness,


actually. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I know the boys enjoyed it.


That was all that mattered. Wouldn't have missed the experience


Just being out here amongst today's servicemen and women, I can see how


important it is to have a small bit of home nearby. I'm glad to say the


tradition of entertainers coming The British camp here in


Afghanistan was built in 2006 and is situated in the middle of the


desert. It's the largest overseas military camp built since World War


II. Camp Bastion is the engine room of all the operations here in


Afghanistan. We're now going to find out what life is really like


for the troops on the front line. ( Every day these Chinook helicopters


ferry men and essential supplies to British soldiers throughout Helmand


province. I'm lucky enough to have been given a seat in one.


I'm flying over the deadly Green Zone to visit the men of A company


1 rifles in the Nahr-e Saraj region. I want to discover what day-to-day


life is like for soldiers on the front line in a patrol base.


This one I'm in at the moment is in the heart of the Green Zone. I'm


heading up to the watchtower to how close we actually are to the front


line. The watchtowers or sangers are the


main form of protection for a patrol base. They're heavily armed


and offer a vantage point over the countryside to prevent Taliban


attack. Rifleman Josh Scorah is on duty. What are you looking for?


General pattern of life. If there's no locals around, that's a bad sign,


because if Taliban is in the area they will generally warn off the


locals not to come out. What are those white flags over there in the


trees? Basically, they're Taliban flags. The Taliban come in, put


these flags up in certain areas. They'll booby trap them, put some


sort of anti-tamper device or IEDs on the ground. ISAF troops don't go


Those Taliban flags, which are 100 metres away, are a clear reminder


that we are in a dangerous place here and that's why these guys are


Major Boswell has been commanding A-Company for the past six months


and he and his men have made it their own. This is where the action


is. This is the frontline for us. So we have this patrol base which


is an old Afghan compound which we have added things to over times. We


start cutting wood and putting up roofing, making camp improvements.


Within your Company, you have a carpenter, a welder, a former


bricky, a painter. Just seeing these random qualifications that


the riflemen have from various walks of life and how that can come


together to create one big construction company is amazing! It


can be the most simple thing. Like creating a drainage system for


brushing your teeth, or putting up a shower curtain made from some old


manure sacks. Everything around us has been built and produced by the


riflemen? It's done by the riflemen in conjunction with the field


engineer troops. Of the 9,500 British troops in Helmand, a third


endure the simple conditions of frontline compounds like this one.


One of Major Boswell's riflemen, Jamie Thornton, has agreed to show


me his regiment's creative DIY skills. This is the washing machine.


The what? This is the washing machine. It's a cement mixer! I


don't know if that is bizarre or ingenious. Ingenious. Hot water


into this cement mixer and... it on like usual. Leave your


washing in, throw it in, go brush your teeth, come back, rinse it,


that's it. It gets the sweat and irrigation water out. What about


the tumble drier? That's the sun! Even the sleeping quarters are far


more basic than I thought they would be. This is our crib. Welcome


to the crib. We have a mouse problem at the moment.


confirmed so far! Pretty good going. It's not possible to go for a quick


jog outside the walls so each base has its own gym. Exercise is not


just about the body, it also helps concentrate the mind because


soldiers like Jamie need to be ready and alert at all times.


normal day is going out that gate and doing what we do, doing what we


are trained to do. Your normal day is different to many people's


normal day. Suddenly, the base seems empty and an eerie silence


descends. It is quite quiet around the camp today. Where is everybody?


It is very quiet. Most of the riflemen are on this operation


today. We are trying to bait the insurgents out. This is the


operations room. This is where they are keeping an eye on the guys on


the ground. The Ops Room is the hub of any operation. It is where Major


Boswell co-ordinates his men in battle. By using all the


intelligence they have in here, they have identified two members of


the Taliban. They are waiting now for the all-clear to engage. Major


Boswell listens carefully to all the updates on the ground. And


finally he makes his decision. are tracking the guy in the white


jacket. The commander. That's it. Everyone's got their job,


everyone's communicating brilliantly. It's an extremely


job at hand and they are focused on that. Let's go for it! OK. Through


Major Boswell's leadership and precision team work between the


troops on the ground and in the air, the mission is a success. More


importantly, with only two weeks of their tour left, none of A-Company


were killed or injured on the mission. The boys who have just


arrived back here have been on the patrol we were watching from the


Ops Room. It is baking hot. They kind of get on with it. They must


have been on foot patrol for five hours. Unfortunately, not all


missions are like this. As Jamie reminds me. My mate, he was a


double amputee. I was in a checkpoint at the time. I found out


that he was blown up. I went and saw him in Selly Oak. That was


really horrible. I was walking down the corridor - it's a long corridor


- I had a bit of a cry, as you would. It was quite horrible to see


him. One thing I have learnt from this place is to live life to the


max. You don't know - you see people come and go all the time in


the Army. Jamie's moving story about his friend is a reminder of


the reason I have come to Afghanistan. There's a special


place set aside in this patrol base, the memorial, the names of men and


women who have fallen in battle in this area are always remembered


How many have been seriously injured? How many have been lost?


We have had a lot wounded, an awful lot seriously wounded and we have


only lost two. Over time you learn to box it up. There's some demons


out there that we will deal with when we get home, together. Right


here, it is one big happy family. Nothing can really affect them. --


that. Spending time here has given me an insight into how our troops


live on the frontline. It is really basic here, really harsh conditions.


But friendships get them through. Ef are I time -- every time they


leave those gates, they put their life in danger. For that, they have


my utmost respect. With loved ones serving abroad, the


worry and anguish for friends and family at home is immense. Sadly


for some, that worry turns into the news they never want to hear. In


2003, Kate Darbyshire met Steven, a Royal Marine. He made me laugh. He


was just strong and passionate and had a lust for life, really. If


there was any kind of party, he would be in the middle of it. We


both probably wanted children at some point. But Ryan came sooner


than what we both expected, really. In a good way. Ryan was born in


2004 and two years later, Callum arrived to complete their family.


He was a great dad. He was hands-on from the start and amazed me,


really. I think he changed the first nappy, it wasn't me - it was


him. He did the first bath. I used to come home from work and he would


be at home and the boys would have their tool bench out and the tools


and they would be working at the side of him. Got them involved in


everything. Now, to this day, they play Army on the floor with their


friends and they do dress up. They have the real things so, for them,


it was great, that their dad was a real soldier. In 2010, Steven was


posted to Afghanistan for the third time. He phoned as often as he


could and he used to ring at like around 6.00 because that would be


the time that usually we would all be in, I would be home from work


and if the boys had been playing out, they were getting ready for a


bath. We all got to speak to him. I used to write to him probably


nearly every day. Half of the time I was talking rubbish, really. It's


just sending him something to know that we are thinking about him.


Kate and the boys made sure he had a little something from home.


had a separate part of the trolley that would be for their dad and


goodies and for the rest of the lads as well. Parcels are like free


to send. So it was a case of sending as many as we can and they


used to help me pack the parcels, we used to weigh them together, we


used to wrap them together. They would decorate the boxes, put


stickers on. So I bet he was made up when his delivery arrived.


was a massive morale boost for Steven who as a Royal Marine was


often away from home. For us as a family, actually where he was going


was a bit irrelevant, it was more the length of time that he would be


away. He could have been away training somewhere for six months


in a safe environment, but we missed him and he missed us. It is


a long time to be away from your family so when they do come home,


it's the best feeling ever. Steven was stationed in one of the most


hostile areas of Helmand Province. Part of me was always worried


because of the environment over there and everything and what he


was doing. And the situations that he could have been in. He's been to


Northern Ireland, to Iraq twice, this was his third tour in


Afghanistan and I think to me in my mind he was invincible, I suppose.


There was never any doubt in my mind that he wouldn't come home.


The last conversation we all had with him was on the Saturday before


he died on the Wednesday. He had phoned at dinner time and the boys


had been playing football and we had just got in. Callum had


answered the phone but he had pressed the button so he was on


loud speaker, which is good now in a way because I heard the whole


conversation and he spoke to Callum and asked him what he had been


doing at nursery and about playing football that morning. He had spoke


to Ryan and I had obviously said in my letters that he's doing really


well at football and he's won such a medal and he had won a


goalkeeping award the week before. He said to Ryan, "I hear somebody


is like a fantastic footballer!" I could see Ryan's face, he was like,


"How does my dad know that when he weren't here?" The last thing he


said to him was, "You will have to show me when I get home." Four days


later, Steven was shot and killed. I remember I was putting my make-up


on in the mirror. I watched my mum walk into me through the reflection


of the mirror. I have never in my entire life seen my mum look like


that, ever. When people say things like this happen and you get a gut


feeling and you know, I did know. But all I could think about at that


moment was protecting my children and if they could have another day


where they didn't know then that was - for me it was the right thing


to do. I just said to them, you know, your dad's in Afghanistan and


you know like you play Army outside with your friends and you hide and


you pretend you are snipers and I said, "Over there, the snipers are


real and the guns are real. The bullets are real. This morning your


dad's been out and he's been shot." I had conversations with them both


for like hours and hours and hours, just answering question after


question. And it is child questions like, "If somebody was shooting at


him, why didn't he duck?" And, "Why didn't he crawl on all fours?" "Why


didn't he shoot him first?" It's awful as a parent, it is the - the


conversations are those that you shouldn't have to have. I don't


remember being five and three. I don't know what their memories of


their dad are going to be like. And it's my job to keep his memory


alive and not let them forget because he was amazing and he was


their dad and they need to know how amazing he was. Steven is the first


thing I think about when I wake up every morning and he is the last


thing I think about when I go to bed at night. I am fortunate in the


fact that I have got two bits of him for the rest of my life and the


biggest injustice I could ever do to him would be not to look after


them properly. That is what makes me get up in the morning. Like all


families of fallen servicemen and women, Kate, Ryan and Callum were


awarded the Elizabeth Cross. I am so proud to have that in our


possession. All little boys think their dads are heroes, but theirs


It's been an absolute privilege to spend time with our Armed Forces


out here in Afghanistan. I would like to thank them and everybody


else who have shared their experiences with us this week.


On the eve of Remembrance Sunday, Gethin Jones is in Afghanistan to honour those that have fought there, as well as reflecting on all the other servicemen and women who have taken part in past conflicts around the world.

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