Episode 2 Remembrance Week

Episode 2

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 here in Helmand province in Afghanistan, one of the most


dangerous countries in the world. Although 9,500 British troops are


deployed here, and in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, I am proud to


be introducing both their stories and those from past conflicts


around the world. This is Every day this week, we mark the


build-up to Remembrance Sunday by letting those who march past the


Cenotaph tell their personal stories of strength and courage. We


also commemorate those who have laid down their lives for their


country. Coming up: I get a true taste of how exhausting it is to


work in Helmand Province. There are always four of you? Two of us.


We find out the personal stories behind the headlines in Northern


Ireland. It is not just another soldier, it is my brother, Simon.


And their young family count down the days for their loved one to


come home. No-one in the world could have a better dad then me.


This series is all about exceptional bravery and courage and,


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


environments. In the Second World War, Burmah rifleman Orde Wingate


was part of an elite special forces known as the Chindits. Our role was


to challenge the Japanese in jungle warfare. We became special because


we went behind the lines. We went over 100 miles behind the lines.


The Chindits were the pioneers of jungle guerrilla warfare and the


brainchild of Major-General Orde Wingate, the man who named them


after a feature of the army's temples. Chindtat was the dragon


outside temples. It was a forceful men. Before the war Burmah 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.


The only way to forge a counter- attack was to have a special group


of soldiers. You did not walk, you did everything in the double, you


trotted the hallway. -- you trotted all the way.


The only way to get supplies in was by year. You were freezing cold.


The pilots released us in a glider. There was no more noise. And then


you're coming down, it is getting hotter and you can feel the heat


going up your nose. You were supposed to come down at 75 miles


an hour, but we came down at around 150 miles an hour. They did not


account for the hills. You hit the paddy-fields and all hell breaks


out. There were brambles, of weeds coming through the windows. --


weeds coming through. My full title was Reconnaissance


Platoon Commander. I would go ahead of the column, that was 400 men and


100 mules. I had to find the way through the jungle, find water,


find the Supply Drop the area. I had to find an area of where light


planes could land to take away the wounded.


In 1944, three -- 3,000 Chindits began an advance. In the jungle,


you had the creepers coming down and you had to hack your way


through. And then there was the elephant grass, seven feet high, it


had serrated edges and your clothes were just form. Then there was the


dust coming down on you. Sometimes the column would do it eight miles


in a day, starting at five in the morning. You could only do eight


miles because the jungle was so thick. All I can remember is the


man in front of me, or the mule in front of me with its tail swishing.


The Chindits were a superior international fighting force.


some wonderful trips, including British boys, Scottish, Welsh, the


lot. Even though I was born and bred in Burma, it was tough for us.


I never saw one person go back by one foot. We were all there to


fight. He 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 was in your mouth and fear To Cover. Then you


fight and you keep on fighting. Fire, and fire quick dash to get


them first, before they got you. -- fire quick - get them first.


The Chindits had to be supplied by air, but this was not reliable so


they had to be resourceful. You get a thick bamboo that has bought a


remit. We had a Burmese knife that was razor sharp. With bamboo, you


must cut up words. We had to teach the British boys. It is very hard


to. You did it this way. foliage was so dense that it was


easy to get lost, so it was important to follow strict


instructions, even going to the toilet. You had to go in pairs. You


would walk around 20 paces away from the camp, turn your back to


each other, walked for 10 paces, deja business and then came back.


Some of them got lost, having done a slightly wrong turning. Surviving


in these conditions was tough. Always hungry, always dirty, always


wet. You were wet with perspiration, wet with rain, wet with fear. And


just tired of being tired. I cried at night sometimes because of the


hunger. All you can think of his food.


Neville and his comrades ate whatever they could find. I taught


them how to eat monkey because monkey flesh is lovely. They had


blow pipes because we could not fire a gun. It would give our


position away. Neville fought and survived for


four months deep in the heart of the jungle but the severe


conditions caught up with him later in 19 night -- 1944. I was in


hospital, having been bitten by rats. I hat typhus, pneumonia and


malaria. Dame Vera Lynn came round. I said, kiss me, Vera. I saw how a


few years back and I told her, you kissed me in July 1944. She said,


how can you remember that? I said, because I was 21 years old then.


Neville met the girl called Glory Rose. By the Thai my got to our


camp -- by the time I got to our camp, there was no more fighting.


did not believe that anybody could do so much. If she was cooking rice


cakes. I thought it was a bit of a nuisance, disturbing the cooking!


Happy, always smiling. A darn good cook. He made me very happy.


Neville and Glory Rose were married in 1949 and celebrated their sixty-


second anniversary this year. Former Neville and his fellow


Chindits, their legacy lives on. What the SAS is doing now, be


learnt from us. -- they learned from us. We were proud to be


Chindits. Everyone did their bit to, otherwise we could not have overrun


Burma. I am so proud of all of them. For his contribution to the


Chindits and the Burmese Army, Neville was awarded an MBE. We hope


that his efforts and those of his comrades will never be forgotten.


Camp Bastion is situated in the middle of a harsh Afghanistan


desert. Our front line troops are based hundreds of miles away, the


pain more hostile territory. The only way to get vital supplies to


them is by air or by vehicle. We are travelling in a heavily


armoured vehicle. But it is the fear of the unknown that is


unsettling as we travel in one of these. Moving anywhere outside camp


increases the danger. That was completely disorientating,


but luckily it is just a training exercise. It is something all the


soldiers have to do when they get out here in Afghanistan. The thing


is, that is a reality. That can happen at any point when you're


travelling on the roads out here. These vehicles have saved countless


lives, but the hostile environment and hidden bombs puts them through


their paces every day. I am about to meet the team of specialists


whose job it is to maintain them. Working out here is tough, even


right now - it is windy with dust flying about. For a mechanic that


is a nightmare scenario, isn't it? Yes. We can fix anything anywhere.


Matt is part of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.


Any move about here is relatively dangerous. The routes we have to


take are varied so that we do not use the same roads over and again


in set patterns. The guys will drive across conditions like this


where it is lumpy, uneven and without tarmac.


It is a full-time job to keep their vehicles in Afghanistan on the road.


Sometimes that means fixing them in the middle of a Taliban firefight.


You are in a really dangerous feria. It goes with wearing the suit. We


are soldiers first and tradesmen always. The guys are prepared to go


into battle and put their lives in danger. If an explosive device goes


off and endures the vehicle, the guys will get out. The guys will go


and assess the vehicle, pull it to safety and administer first aid


where they can. To see how physically punishing it


is to recover vehicles, the engineers are going to put me


through my paces. Every second counts because, when one vehicle


stops, so does the convoy. And then you are sitting target. -- you are


Is it always four of you? usually it is two. Come on! It is


so hard, I cannot get any grip underfoot. Doing this for real, it


could take 10-15 minutes, it could take two days. This is perfect


conditions. Perfect conditions? It is dusty, it is windy. There is


loads of space to manoeuvre the vehicles, this is perfect


conditions, suck it up, big man! After just 25 minutes, this


specialist team have recovered the vehicle and moved it away from


That was absolutely epic, something very, very difficult made to look


relatively straightforward. I think to be honest, the boys have quite


enjoyed bossing me around a bit, which is fine, because it has given


me a real idea of what they have to go through a day in, day out. It is


so hard. I cannot tell you, these conditions, the wind, the dust,


pulling heavy equipment, you have got no grip on the ground, either.


Add to that the dangers of being in the Green Zone, it gives you an


idea of how hard it is. But there is another job which REME take an


immense pride in. They make this cross for any service person who


falls here in Helmand province. Do you take a lot of pride in this


work? Yes. It is something of the boys will stop everything to do.


The final touch is the badge of the unit. Sadly in this case we have


Still to come, we hear from the original sweet heart of the Armed


Forces, Dame Vera Lynn. I thought, just a lipstick will have to do,


and that is how I used to work. Margaret, James and Sophie are


counting down the days until Neill, the missing part of the family, is


back from Afghanistan. He is due back on Tuesday, four days away.


will be a bit cheesy, but I would really like to just give him a hug


again. He is an amazing dad, no-one in the world could have a better


dad than me. He's coming home, four days! Neill and Margaret got


together in 2003 after tragedy struck her young family. With Neill,


it wasn't just walking in on a ready-made family that was all OK,


it was walking in on a ready-made family that has been ripped apart,


basically. It was the day before Sophie's second birthday. Singing


Happy birthday to a two-year-old less than 24 hours after finding


out that your husband had died in a road accident... James took it


really hard. He had just started school and come home one day and


Dad had not come home from work. I probably could put it down to one


of the hardest days of my life. from the moment Neill stepped into


their lives, he has been their rock. For everything that happened,


everything that went wrong, every struggle that we had, he was there


for us. Neill has been a great father for the 13-year-old and the


11-year-old. He has been amazing, he helps with your homework and he


is extremely cuddly. He's basically one big teddy bear. I'm lucky to


have him. He's spot on, he's great. James and Sophie are actually quite


desperate for Neill to be their dad. Whilst we tried to explain that he


could be, without being married, it was not a concept that they were


happy to go with. It was Bonfire Night in the local area, and we


went to a firework display, and when the fireworks were going off,


he turned round and asked me to marry him, with the Ring! Neill and


Margaret married in 2008, and, for this new military family, the


inevitable happened earlier this year. I found out in one fell sweep


that we had been re-posted, and he was going to Afghanistan. I was


absolutely gutted, but it was always going to come. You just pick


yourself up and have to get on with it, that's what I signed up for,


not literally, but it is what I married into, and it is what Neill


signed up for. But breaking the news to the children was always


going to be difficult. We were sitting down, all relaxed with hot


chocolate and drinks and things like that, then Mum said, kids, I


have something very important to tell you. He looked at me and


Sophie, straight in the eye, and said, I'm going to Afghanistan. I


knew that Mum was very upset so I tried not to show that I was upset,


to make Mum feel better. I really felt for James, because Neill is


everything for him now, he really looks up to him. And it all the


other stuff, will he be saved, will he come home? And what will I do if


anything happens to him? The RAF Flight Sergeant was posted to Kabul,


the capital of Afghanistan, where he is a mentor to the Afghan


National Army. It is his first tour of duty since meeting Margaret.


Neill got upset, and I have never really seen him upset. Which told


me actually this time was probably going to be a bit harder for him,


because it was the first time he was ever leaving children behind.


The bit I miss most is the laughter that we have together, and just him


being around. Sometimes when I'm on my own, just playing a game or just


doing something, he will just pop into my head, and I will think, I


wish he was there. I missed him every minute of every day.


James and Sophie, Neill's absence has had a huge impact on their


lives. Because they have known him for five years before we were


married, he was Neill. And we had conversations about starting to


call him Dad. They were try, Neill, Dad, and it ended up being quite


funny. But while Neill has been in Afghanistan, James has pretty much


decided it is Neill. They do not forget their dad, but it means they


are working towards the family that they want it back again. After four


months, Neill returned home for his mid tour break. We were going,


where is he? Here he is a! We saw the car come up, as soon as he came


out, we went straight into his arms, it was really special, one of the


most special moments ever. We were arguing who would sit next to Neill


at the table when we went for a meal. Needless to say, I was across


the table, and the two children were next to him, I got chucked


out! I did not win, and I don't think I will win this time, either!


I will have to run quickly. And then of course, two weeks later you


have got to say goodbye again. Being back in Afghanistan is


challenging for Neill as well. Being away from the family so long,


it is difficult at times, not being able to see the children, going


through the highs and lows of their life over the last six months, just


missing holding them and being there when they need it. After a


tough six months, Neill is finally on his way home. We were all really


excited. I'm looking forward to the -- hugs ever. I'm so proud to be


his son, I'm just so proud of him. The first thing I will say to him


is, I love you, because I have not been able to say that properly to


I'm very pleased he's home. It is good to see the kids so happy, they


have been waiting for this day. just really happy to be back with


my family again. Just finally, things are back to normal. Happy,


Next, we hear from Darren Ware, who has returned from the place where


he laid to rest his only brother, Simon, 20 years ago. When I'm here


at the graveside, it is me and him, it is just a small way of saying,


we have not forgotten about you. From childhood, these brothers were


inseparable. Simon was a huge influence on me, he was my elder


brother. We used to play cops and robbers and soldiers, like other


kids. Even though we were in a different year, we went to the same


school. We would make up at playtime, and occasionally, we


would go out and get up to boisterous mischief. Simon joined


the army cadets, sparking his ambition to be a professional


soldier. When he left school, isn't In front of Darren, their family


and friends, Simon passed out in February 1987. I was very proud of


him. It was very wet and windy, but it was a really good day. And where


Simon went, Darren followed. When he left school and joined the Army,


I followed his footsteps. I went straight to the same Careers Office,


and I said, I wanted to join the Coldstream Guards, just like Simon.


They measured my height and said, you're not tall enough to join the


gods, so I ended up joining the Royal green jackets. Simon ended up


taking the Mick, because according to him, the regiment I joined was


insignificant, not as good. And I would say the same thing to him. It


was always good-natured banter. two brothers were posted to


different parts of the world but always managed to stay in touch.


did not have mobile phones, it was a case of winning the operations


room, and getting them to ring you back. We kept the conversations


pretty short. But it is traditional for soldiers to say, keep your head


down. It speaks for itself, really, just keep safe and look after


yourself. So, at the end of every conversation, it would always be,


keep your head down, you, too. soldiers completed tours of


Northern Ireland, and then, in 1991, they returned. Simon was posted to


the notoriously volatile south Armagh. Every soldier knows that it


is rough, South Armagh. It was known as bandit country, it was


such a dangerous place for soldiers and police officers to patrol.


Known as the Troubles, the years 1969 to 1998 were a period of


conflict in Northern Ireland. And the main group resisting British


rule and targeting our Armed Forces was the IRA. They only have to be


lucky once. They plant a bomb, soldier goes past, the bomb goes


off, that is their luck. But for the soldier, you have to be lucky.


You're always thinking in the back of your mind, anything could happen.


It was a difficult time for both brothers. Simon was worried, he


knew what he was going to, he knew it was tough. But he was like any


11 phone call, Simon had a special request for his younger brother.


rang me up, asking, do you want to be my best man? I was pleased to do


it for him. We both had our Northern Ireland medals on. He was


proud as punch. He was the tall, handsome Guardsman. He got married


on the Saturday and had to go to Northern Ireland on the Monday, two


days later. I remember the last conversation quite vividly. He let


me know that he was going out on a three-day operation and would be


back on Saturday. At the end of the conversation, we said, keep your


head down. What 17th August 1991, Darren's


commanding officer would give in use that would shatter his world.


Sitting in the chair in his office, with my helmet on and my camouflage


cream, gun and ammunition, he told me, your brother has been killed by


a bomb in South Armagh this morning. It hit me. Suddenly, everything


just sort of fell apart. I remember just bursting into tears. I did not


know what to do. The only brother I had, a big chunk of my life, had


suddenly been killed. Darren was immediately flown home to be with


his family. I remember the first radio broadcast on the news.


NEWS reader: A soldier was killed today in South Armagh.


The soldier died at the scene near the Irish border.


I was thinking, they are talking about my brother. It is not just


another soldier, it is my brother, Simon. I think the first broadcast


on the television showed the scene of the explosion. They showed the


wood where he patrolled. I asked myself, what was he doing in the


wood? How was he killed? How big was the bomb? How was it


constructed? I was determined to find out.


As his brother and as a fellow soldier, Darren needed to know what


happened to Simon on that fateful morning. After months of research


he could finally answer role of the questions that he had.


The last 15 minutes of the patrol that morning, his team had entered


a track which went through the middle of the wood. There was a


bend and the terrorists had buried the the bomb. It just happened that


the piece of equipment that Simon was carrying was compatible with


the initiation device for the bomb. He was so close to the end of his


tour. He was due to come back only It does not get any easier. There


is no-one there to share those experiences, what soldiers talk


about, what brothers talk about. Everything, everything I miss about


In the Second World War, British efforts to keep morale high a gave


rise to one of our most treasured entertainers. Dame Vera Lynn is


without doubt the original forces sweetheart. It all started when she


joined ENSA. All of the boys had their run idea of what it stood for


- every night something awful. The performers were not always that


good. Formed in 1939 by the impresario Basil Dean and the


British Government, entertainers were posted around the world to


entertain our troops. If you were a performing artist and he joined up,


be made good use of you, I can assure you! They may not have been


fighting but they certainly did their bit.


Dame Vera Lynn was just 20 when she signed up for ENSA. My mother put


me on the stage when I was seven. I went through singing with dance


bands before I started in the real profession. It was great experience,


a good background to be able to old people's attention in a smoky hall


or a working man's club with no microphone.


By 1940, her sweet voice was already a huge hit with the armed


forces. If I had been broadcasting to the boys overseas and I thought


it would be nice to go and see them in person, actually where they were


fighting and sing to them as me and not just over the radio. So why


approached ENSA and suggested that I could go overseas somewhere. They


said, where do you want to go? I said, Europe gets a lot of ENSA


parties, so I want to go somewhere where they are not getting a lot of


entertainment, if any. They said, Burma is the only place that nobody


wants to go to. I said, that is where I want to go.


In 1944, Dame Vera arrived in Burma. Although everything was rationed,


it was still important for the young singer to look her best.


took a pretty dress with me because I thought I would need it. I only


wore it wants. It was much too hot. I lived in khaki all the time. I


thought, just a lipstick will have to do. And that is how I worked -


khaki and lipstick. A little bit of lipstick 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 on a little platform and look out and see all of these chaps


out there, spread quite a long way away. It was rather nice, really,


to be the only girl amongst so many chaps. People ask me, how did they


treat you? I say, absolute perfect gentleman and they treated me with


the utmost respect. There was never any saucy calls or anything like


that. It was not only large groups that


Dame Vera sung to. 11 occasion, two injured soldiers had a special


request. They were poorly and could not go to the concert. I went to


visit them and sat on their bed, chatting. They said, will use in


We'll Meet Again? So I sang it to them. -- will use saying We'll Meet


It is just something from home, and that means everything.


That became her signature tune. Wherever she went, a pianist went


as well. But it did -- but it did not always go to plan.


He started playing the piano and the sides came off. A couple of


guys jumped upon the stage and put them back on and we carried on!


A making the best of a challenging situation was part of the job.


appreciate what they were doing, you had to live with them. I would


not have felt comfortable if I had lived a few miles out in a hotel.


There were no hotels. There were not any hoses even, let alone what


else! Being in tropical climates, she had to learn and adapt quickly.


With a bowl of soup, you would have to be nifty with your spoon and get


it under the flies and whip out a spoonful quickly. I came back a bit


thinner than when I went. And I was not fat to start with! During the


Second World War, thousands of ENSA artists perform over 2.5 million


show so worldwide. I just talked to them. They did not care whether


Raeside are not. It was just that I was there, having a chat, talking


about London and the Blitz. To be able to pass on messages and tell


them, do not worry about us, we are find, to reassure them that we were


doing all right. For the troops who had been away


from home for so long, the morale boast was massive. -- morale boost.


One chap said to me, now you are here, home does not seem so far


away. Dame Vera signed to British troops in Egypt, India and Burma,


and will always be our forces' sweetheart. The war brought out a


lot of talent. Some of it was not so good, but a lot of celebrities


were made by entertaining during the war. It is one of the most


important things that I did in my career. I always look back on it


with happiness, actually, because I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I know


that the boys enjoyed it, and that was all that mattered. I wouldn't


have missed the experience for the world. Just been out here amongst


today's servicemen and women, I can see how important it is to have a


small bit of home nearby. I camp -- I am glad to say that the tradition


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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