Episode 1 Remembrance Week

Episode 1

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.

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I am in Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, the heart of British


operations in Afghanistan. In the lead-up to Remembrance Sunday, we


will be celebrating the heroic jobs that our armed forces do, as well


as reflecting on those who have given their lives both here and in


past conflicts around the world. This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday,


the day we all are those who have given their lives for our country.


-- the day we honour those who have given their lives for our country.


We followed D-Day veteran John Shanahan on an emotional journey


back to Normandy. We had to run up the beach and get out of it.


visit an Afghanistan school in the middle of the notorious Green Zone.


Can we shake hands? And we hear the courageous story of


a Royal Marine who survived a Taliban bomb. I thought, this is it,


nothing is going to stop me now. The term band of brothers is often


used to describe the camaraderie in the armed forces. Our next story


shows how deep those bonds are and how they can last forever. In 1982,


these four young lads were just 17 years old and were true brothers in


arms. 29 years on, Mark Eyles- Thomas fondly remembers his friends.


Jason Bert was an eastender, a Londoner, very good looking, a


handsome chap. He knew that and could work that with the ladies.


Neil Grouse - he talked to his family all the time -- talked of


his family all the time. Neil Scriven is was from Yeovil in the


West Country, top funny and had a tractor. But he didn't.


Mark, Jason, meal 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. When you pass out it is the proudest day of


your life. I am not sure a lot of people understand what you have


gone through. It does not matter how bad the situation is, you are


still expected to go one. There is still more you can do. I was part


of one of the greatest regiment's the British Army has ever had.


He in April 1982, at their unit was sent to the Falkland Islands, are


remote UK or overseas territory in the South Atlantic which had been


invaded by Argentinian forces. are with your friends. We were


cocky little 16-year-olds. Imagine what we're going to be like when we


wait -- when we get back - there will be medals, money...


For these inexperienced soldiers, the reality of war was about to hit


home. The command was given to secure Mount Longdon, a key


Argentinian vantage point. Before the operation we managed to stay


together in the morning just to say happy 18th birthday to Neil Grouse.


All we had was a cup of tea and a quick chat, saying happy birthday


and let's hope it's a good party this evening, that kind of thing.


Because of what we're doing tonight, when we get back we will make sure


it is a super special one. But, for this group of boys, success would


come at a high price. As they prepared to go to battle, 3 Para's


commanding officer addressed his men. It ended with the words, may


God go with you. It was the first time I thought, some of us are not


coming back. The realisation hit me like nothing else that hit me


during the period I was there. Mount Longdon was six kilometres


from their base, there for the element of surprise was vital. As


they moved forward, they walked straight into a minefield. All hell


breaks loose -- broke loose from that moment. The whole place


erupted with fire. Your instinct is to go to ground and take cover, but


you are in a minefield. My whole body knew what was going on. The


weapon was shaking in my hand. Whether that was from the cold or


from the intensity of the moment or fear, it does not matter. This is


the biggest fireworks display you have ever seen in your life. There


was no fun behind it. It was just sheer violence.


Mark, Jason, Ian and Neil made it through the minefield unscathed and


continued their advance with the unit to Mount Longdon. The initial


parts of getting up to Mount Longdon were chaos. It is pitch-


dark. You would pick up the occasional silhouette moving. It


could be an Argentinian or one of your own. You did not know. You


could hear Spanish being spoken, or whatever, it was that close. It


would be to the right and to the left. It was absolute chaos. When


they reached the base of Mount Longdon, the atmosphere changed


dramatically. It was a full moon that night and you could see the


glint of the beer nets and the metal. You could see your breath in


front of you. Time just stands still. There is no noise whatsoever.


And then charge. This has to happen quickly and all the time you are


running across that ground you are vulnerable. They were under attack


from Argentinian snipers positioned on high ground. As we were running


I felt Jason go down. I retraced my steps and there he was, lying with


his face down. I turned him on to one shoulder. 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 winded. It was then that


Scrivs called out again to say, he is in a bad way. Scrivs had


stabilised him and the dressing over Derwent. -- all over the


warned. Scrivs said, we cannot stay here. We are out in the open and


eventually the snipers will get us. I put my hand on to say, we will


move the mind what we will do is... And as I did that he was shot and


he just slumped. 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. I held Grouse 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. He actually thanked


me. He said, thanks, Tom. Two words. Just personal moments. Very


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


sacrifice. You know it is all over. Jason's bet, Ian is dead and Neil


is dead. -- Jason is dead. Their lives and those of other


soldiers are commemorated here at Aldershot Cemetery. I love coming


here. I sit on a bench, have a drink, have a chat, tell them what


is going on in my life. These are just their new bed spaces. That is


where the rest. The truth is that you're coming to visit friends,


Afghanistan has been a war zone for over 30 years and, 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. There is a team in the British armed forces


working alongside the local people to change this. I am flying to


Checkpoint Jeka in the heart of Helmand's infamous Green Zone. In


the past, areas like these have been ruined by brittle fighting, so


I am here to find out from Sergeant Neil Shinner how the British troops


are helping to rebuild these local innocent communities. Back home in


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


activity. It is not all negative, is it? You are part of the positive.


It can be positive. I operate as a stabilisation operator.


Stabilisation seems to be the big word here - what does it mean?


put it in context, in the UK we take everything for granted. We


have schools, hospitals, medical centres decent roads. In this


country, there is nothing. British troops like Neil are walking hand-


in-hand with Afghan soldiers and civilians in a number of community


projects. They build roads and drilled wells, but the most


important thing is education. Neil is taking me to see a newly built


school. We're going to be on foot patrol. We still have to be in all


the gear. My particular favourite is the nappy. It might not look the


best but it is all about protection. It is just up there. That is


Helmand, that is where the danger is. We have a team around us, just


in case. The moment we walk out of these gates we will be exposed to


the threat of attack. We are in the heart of the Green Zone, then.


Very peaceful, isn't it? At the moment! However, I would probably


say that, two years ago it would have been a different story around


this area. It is predominantly a farming community. A lot of them


have fruit trees, pomegranates. This is the school. This is it?


It is not the kind of standard you would probably see in the UK. This


is a typical classroom. As you can see, anyone looking at this in the


UK will probably think that it does not look much, but once we have


carpets down, pillows that they sit on, the drawing board and a teacher,


we have kids learning. The school is a massive part of any community.


Restoring trust in the local authorities and local police, you


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


Hello. Shake hands? When you can count to 10 I will give you my


watch! The children I have met today will


finally have a base, somewhere to come to every day to get their


education. Hopefully they will not be influenced in the future by the


Taliban and they will take a different route. That route will be


As we head back to the base, the atmosphere changes around us. Have


you seen something? Just to be on the safe side. The guards have been


spooked by something. It is such a strange thing, but such a peaceful


community can change just like that. But improvements are being made, so


hopefully, these children will have a safe place to live very soon.


have a saying, the people are the prize. Everybody here believes that.


Eventually, we will be able to leave this country in a better


During the Second World War, the role of women was vital, whether it


was delivering Speck fires or working the fields for the Land


Army. But there was another theatre nurse and they were indispensable.


It has been 70 years since Jane took to the season as part of the


war effort. And she returns to where it all began, at the Royal


Naval College in Greenwich. I was just an ordinary country girl, and


to come here, to something so special, it really took my breath


away. All these windows were blacked out, and there was a


minimal of lighting. I don't know, it's just as wonderful memories,


I'm just so lucky to be back here. In 1939, Jane Eldridge was just 19


years old, working as a driver on the Isle of Wight. The war had not


actually started, but everybody was prepared. It was while I was


ambulance driving, I thought, one wanted to do more than this. And so


I applied to join the Wrens. I did not know anything about it. My


mother was most upset. She said, you're living at home, earning �3 a


week, what more do you want? Jane's application was successful.


You went straight to work. You had these awful thick tights, and you


had a great big knickers with elastic around the knees, they were


called Taxi cheaters. We had to carry gas masks and tin hats. You


used your gas mark as a handbag, for your lipstick. Jane originally


joined as a driver, and after only 18 months, her talent was obvious.


I think it was the best promotion one could possibly have. Wrens,


Jane had married early, before their husbands were sent to fight


for their country. They did everything they could in order to


meet their husbands, or to know how they were getting on. Jane's


husband, Jim, was posted to Italy. Then, an amazing opportunity arose.


They asked for volunteers to go and work on troop ships. I thought, it


sounds wonderful, I might see my husband. But they had to have a


naval officer on board to button up or unbuttoned messages, because it


had to be an officer for secret messages. And so it meant if we


went, it would release men to go and do rather more serious jobs.


Suffering was decoding covert communication, and now Jane was an


officer, she readily accepted. In 1943 she received instructions for


her first mission. A signal came through to say, would I take a


fortnight's leave, collect tropical kit and report to King's Cross


station? The train was in, so we were sent to a particular carriage,


which I did. I found two or three other girls like myself, and none


of us knew why we were there, none of us had a clue. And so we just


watched. As we watched, it got later and later, and rather more


important people kept on passing us as we looked out of the window.


little did she know just how important this entourage would be.


She soon found out, when she arrived at her destination and


boarded one of the largest ships in World War II. Queen Mary, which had


been an ocean liner, she was now a troopship. She had thousands of


people on board. On board there was a great big lady's bicycle,


extraordinary, we used to call them sit-up-and-beg bicycles. It was


rather strange. But when we got on board, we found that we were with


Churchill and his chiefs of staff, and the bicycle had been a decoy,


to think that we were probably taking Queen Wilhemina from Holland,


we were going on board as her staff, and she was being evacuated to


Canada. Queen Wilhemina was famously known for cycling around


Amsterdam. Although the chiefs of staff were on board, we did not see


them at all. There was really no communication, except the signals


that came through. We had to put all of this into cipher, all their


discussions, and send it back probably to the Cabinet in England.


Working in pairs, Jane was among those translating secret messages


to the Prime Minister, who was on his way to a secret conference in


Canada. And then we had messages back from the Cabinet which we had


to decipher for the Chiefs of Staff. You read the message afterwards to


see if it made sense, but you did not really take it in, because you


had to get on with the next one. And some of them were very long,


because they were beginning to plan the invasion. Preparations were


already under way for D-Day, so these messages were vitally


important. We had these huge books which we had to refer to, and these


books had covers that were made of lead, so that they were desperately


heavy. So, if they had these books at sea, they would sink. If you


made one mistake, that could mean a whole ship, for some reason or


another, could be identified by the enemy. The Royal Navy fought


admirably in the Second World War, but it came at a high price, with


over 50,000 souls lost at sea. did not think about danger, you


were too busy. You just joined in with it. When you think, there were


hundreds of other people all in the same boat, as it were! It did not


worry you. Being at sea for months at a time, it was important to keep


fit. We used to go for exercise on board, and it was a long way around


the ship, it really was. And it was very windy, I don't know how many


knots we were doing an hour, but it was pretty fast. Jane has


successfully completed her first tour of duty, and she then went one


step further to spend time with her husband. All leave had been stopped,


and I thought, how am I going to get back down to Camberley to meet


him? We hardly ever saw each other. I had this sore throat business, so


I went to see the local doctor and said, do you think it would help if


I had my tonsils out? He said, yes, I do. He said, when can you come?


So I said, next week. For four years, Jane sailed around the world


decoding messages, and then some unexpected news came, to put an end


to her OC adventures. I found there was having my daughter, so I came


out of the Wrens. And that was the end of that. I had never dreamt


that I would have the privilege of doing things like this. It is a


This year marks the tenth anniversary of the British mission


here in Afghanistan. And for many, it has changed their lives for ever.


This couple met when they were just 16 years old. 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, which 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 Peter


decided he needed a serious challenge. I don't know what, it


just went off in my head, what about the Marines? Why not? Let's


give it a go. I definitely felt I was bulletproof, I was 6 foot tall,


I think every Marine feels like that. In 2008, he was nearing the


end of his second tour of Afghanistan when his life was


turned upside down. That morning we were literally just packing up the


vehicles, the mission had been finished, and we were on the move


back to Camp Bastion. And then it would have been just 10 or 11 days


and we would have been flying home. Ours was the second to last vehicle,


and military just started to move off, and that's all I can remember.


Peter's vehicle had driven over a buried bomb. He lost both his legs,


suffered severe burns and had a fractured spine. I first real


memory of it, I was lying in Selly Oak Hospital, and obviously I could


not sit up. In my head, I was just thinking, this is it, that's me,


done and dusted. What have I got, got no legs? Can't even sit up,


can't do anything, who's going to love me? Despite being a double


amputee, the first hurdle he had to face was a major back operation,


which was successful. After that, I knew, this is it, nothing's going


to stop me now, simple as. This is done, I'm getting out of here.


in an awe-inspiring three months, he was ready to be fitted with two


prosthetic legs. When I put them on for the first time, it was


brilliant, I just felt, nothing's going to get in my way. He quickly


mastered the art of walking, but this was just the beginning. I had


the offer of doing two weeks skiing in Bavaria. So I thought, why not


try it out? It took a lot of messing about to get the balance.


At the start we were trying to guess how many falls I had each


week! But now, it is just brilliant. I loved flying around the piste at


stupid miles an hour, and getting told off for going too fast.


Through the grapevine, Laura had learned of Peter's injuries. I just


wanted to be friends again, because I realised that actually, life is


too short, and it was very nearly him not coming home. So I thought,


right, stop being too proud. So I dropped him a message and very


quickly got a reply back. I replied, of course I remember you, could not


really forget you. We just started chatting, then we met up. When he


gave me a hug outside the pub, it was like we had just rewound a


couple of years, and we could still be 16. When we first met up, I felt,


yes, I do still have feelings for her, obviously, otherwise I would


not be feeling like this right now. It did not take long for a bit of a


romance to start-up. Then he told me that the ski season was about to


start. Although we went on our first proper date, and we could


officially be a couple, he was going to leave the country for the


best part of six months to learn how to ski, and to ski race, and


that was going to be a big turning point in my life. Peter was


learning to take part in the original. And Lawro would be there


for him wherever he was in the world. -- Laura. If I was ever


feeling low, I would phone up, and within five minutes I would have a


big smile back on my face. highs were him picking up gold


medals. I have had phone calls at work to say, I have just won a gold.


You want to be there to give that person a big hug and kiss. Whenever


possible, she travels to be by his side. The cheering him on from the


sidelines is not always easy. I heard that he had crashed out and


the doctor was with him, it was very much just basically waiting


for every minute to take by until I saw something that showed me that


In March 2010, Pete was asked to carry the Paralympic torch in


Vancouver. I couldn't ask for anything better, really, to be


honest. I had a proper, cheesy, proud girlfriend grin.


Pete had a sudden change of plan. Next minute, he gets off the bus


and I am thinking, what are you doing? We have already said goodbye


I am just waiting -- goodbye,... texting a couple of the lads on the


coach to say, do me a favour, get everyone to look this way. He was


texting on his telephone and I was thinking, I am upset, we're going


to have to go through all the rigmarole of goodbye again and you


are texting somebody. I said, of course, darling, I am going to miss


you very much. I was keeping an eye out and she could see me. She said,


what are you looking at? Everyone was there. I got down on one knee


and asked her to marry me. And I was just so blown away. Obviously,


the answer was yes. And the next thing was, you better be able to


get back up of that need! I cannot live duo of the floor!


Then Pete was offered the chance of a lifetime - to be part of the


British Paralympics ski team. offered a challenge. We will just


need to wait and see what happens. Obviously, he is representing his


country again, this time on the ski slopes rather than the battlefield.


I am proud of that, proud of what he does. It has been a roller-


coaster ten years for Peter and Laura, and it doesn't look like


stopping. In February this year, they found out they were expecting.


If we have 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. It is


brilliant -- Laura is brilliant. just love having p 10 my life. I


could not imagine not having him around. I just love her to bits.


The largest seaborne invasion ever assembled landed on the Normandy


coast on D-Day. And the huge loss of life on Omaha Beach is probably


the story that gets told most of them. There were four other beach


landings and next we follow the story of a British veteran on a


journey he made 67 years ago. 90-year-old John Shanahan is


turning the clock back over six decades to remember his comrades


who gave their lives in one of the biggest battles of the Second World


War. They shall grow not all as we that are left grow old.... We will


remember them. The memories of that time come back


now that I am actually sailing over and approaching the coast of France.


Or 6th June 1944, over 160,000 allied troops stormed the beaches


of Normandy. This was the beginning of the invasion of German-occupied


Europe. Feeling rather nervous, not knowing what was waiting for me


when I got there, but knowing I had a job to do and hoping I would not


fail. It is the first time John will be returning to the village


where his battalion lost so many lives. If I had never wanted to go


back before but I am going this time because there is a memorial to


my regiment, who liberated Cans, and paid a big price in doing it.


D-Day had taken almost four years to plan, so 23-year-old John and


his fellow soldiers were given orders that would not compromise


the operation if they were captured. We were told that we had to take a


big town and that the enemy would have fled because all of the


pounding that we would have given them beforehand they would not have


put up with. They would all retreat into Germany. Like his comrades,


John was weighed down with equipment. If that was not enough,


they were also issued with a folding bicycle. The impression was,


once we get in there they will all run away and we will need our


bicycles to catch up with them. weather had delayed the advance,


but two days later the conditions had improved. You wondered whether


it was right of whether you were going to do another exercise. Gore


around a bit, lads and get used to it. But we were going.


Like every soldier Renton, John arrived off the coast of Normandy


in a landing craft, and his foot step in history was about to be


made. The ramp went down with a lot of noise. We got the order to get


off. We jumped into the water, not knowing how deep it was going to be.


It turned out that it was around four feet deep. It was every man


for himself, just keep going until you were at the beach. You could


not run because of the weight of the water pushing against you. We


waded, I suppose. It has been over 67 years since John stepped foot on


Sword Beach on just after 10am on 6th June 1944. As we came to the


beach I was feeling afraid about what was going to meet me. The


noise was absolutely deafening. All the ships at sea were sending this


terrific bombardment over. The enemy mortars and shells were


coming the other way. The crackle of machine guns. The sea was


covered in ships wherever you could look, and all of the landing craft


coming in, and some of them wrecked. You thought, well I ever be able to


get there, run up the beach can get out of it? There were people


shouting and people falling down. The invasion of Normandy was the


largest and biggest assault ever launched. There are 75,000 British


and Canadian troops landing on the beaches. It was like a whole world


was coming to an end. I felt lucky every hour that I hadn't been hit.


When I felt the beach under my boots, I thought, right, I have got


this far, I will get on with it. There were people on the beach,


called beach masters, swearing at you. It soon became clear that not


all of the equipment was essential. I realised that we were not going


to cycle anywhere. We were told to throw our bicycles at the side of


the road. And we did. It was another lump off your back. Within


a few hours, John left Sword Beach behind him and was then tasked with


liberating French villages. We were liberating towns. We drove them out.


If they had already gone out, we did not mess about, we followed


them. We advanced to a place called tier Kyi. -- Cambes-en-Plaine. We


had to advance through open ground, fields of corn.


Cambes-en-Plaine was a village situated in the heart of a dense


wood. We were dug in at certain points which would be available for


attacking Cans. We thought the enemy was not all that strong there.


We thought that one company would attack and overcome the enemy.


the Germans were prepared and the battle was bloody. After retreating,


it was decided to send in the old Italian, a force of 1,000 soldiers.


-- the whole battalion. The enemy fire was coming towards you, going


through the fields with a few dropping down amongst the corner


The enemy decided that we were too powerful and they retreated to.


Eventually, by the end of that day, we had liberated Cans. It was our


first big battle and it sort of showed us what was likely to come.


I realised then that maybe I would not get through another battle like


that. So many did not. This battle claimed the lives of a 44 riflemen,


the largest loss in John's battalion during the Second World


War. This is the first time in 67 years that John has felt able to


return to the village to pay tribute to his fallen comrades.


They gave their lives in the battle but we fought together. -- that we


fought together. I am very pleased that I have been able to come back


today and do them the honour of remembering them in this sport. --


For so many like John, the memory of being part of such a historic


event will never fade. And the courage of his fallen comrades


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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