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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Transcript


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I am here in Helmand province in Afghanistan, one of the most

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

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

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be introducing both their stories and those from past conflicts

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

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

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Cenotaph tell their personal stories of strength and courage. We

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also commemorate those who have laid down their lives for their

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

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

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We find out the personal stories behind the headlines in Northern

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

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

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

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This series is all about exceptional bravery and courage and,

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

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

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

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

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

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The Chindits were the pioneers of jungle guerrilla warfare and the

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

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

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

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of the British Empire, but in 1942 the Japanese invaded in a bid to

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control the country's natural resources and extend their power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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weeds coming through. My full title was Reconnaissance

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

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

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

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planes could land to take away the wounded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Chindits were a superior international fighting force.

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

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

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

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fight. He initially, the Chindits had taken the enemy by surprise,

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but soon the Japanese were fighting back.

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I was a soldier, I took what came. Even in the jungle when you are

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ambushed, your heart was in your mouth and fear To Cover. Then you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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hunger. All you can think of his food.

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

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

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

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position away. Neville fought and survived for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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second anniversary this year. Former Neville and his fellow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Camp Bastion is situated in the middle of a harsh Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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increases the danger. That was completely disorientating,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Matt is part of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

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

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

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

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where it is lumpy, uneven and without tarmac.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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where they can. To see how physically punishing it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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loads of space to manoeuvre the vehicles, this is perfect

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

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specialist team have recovered the vehicle and moved it away from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:25:05.:25:15.
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I'm very pleased he's home. It is good to see the kids so happy, they

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:26:49.:26:51.

the army cadets, sparking his ambition to be a professional

:26:51.:27:01.
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soldier. When he left school, isn't In front of Darren, their family

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

:27:15.:27:22.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:28:25.:28:32.

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

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

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

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

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the notoriously volatile south Armagh. Every soldier knows that it

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

:29:03.:29:09.

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

:29:09.:29:16.

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

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conflict in Northern Ireland. And the main group resisting British

:29:22.:29:28.

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

:29:28.:29:32.

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

:29:32.:29:37.

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

:29:37.:29:41.

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

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

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

:29:49.:29:59.
:29:59.:30:00.

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

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

:30:05.:30:11.

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

:30:11.:30:17.

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

:30:17.:30:21.

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

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

:30:29.:30:33.

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

:30:33.:30:37.

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

:30:37.:30:42.

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

:30:42.:30:47.

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

:30:47.:30:52.

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

:30:52.:30:59.

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

:30:59.:31:04.

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

:31:04.:31:10.

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

:31:10.:31:16.

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

:31:16.:31:21.

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

:31:21.:31:28.

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

:31:28.:31:37.

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

:31:37.:31:41.

The soldier died at the scene near the Irish border.

:31:41.:31:46.

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

:31:46.:31:52.

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

:31:53.:31:57.

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

:31:57.:32:05.

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

:32:05.:32:11.

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

:32:11.:32:14.

constructed? I was determined to find out.

:32:14.:32:18.

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

:32:18.:32:23.

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

:32:23.:32:27.

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

:32:27.:32:32.

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

:32:32.:32:36.

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

:32:36.:32:45.

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

:32:45.:32:50.

the piece of equipment that Simon was carrying was compatible with

:32:50.:32:56.

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

:32:56.:33:06.
:33:06.:33:15.

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

:33:15.:33:23.

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

:33:23.:33:31.

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

:33:31.:33:41.
:33:41.:33:49.

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

:33:49.:33:55.

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

:33:55.:34:05.
:34:05.:34:09.

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

:34:09.:34:17.

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

:34:17.:34:22.

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

:34:23.:34:29.

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

:34:29.:34:33.

British Government, entertainers were posted around the world to

:34:33.:34:41.

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

:34:41.:34:46.

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

:34:46.:34:50.

fighting but they certainly did their bit.

:34:50.:34:56.

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

:34:56.:35:02.

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

:35:02.:35:06.

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

:35:06.:35:15.

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

:35:15.:35:21.

or a working man's club with no microphone.

:35:21.:35:27.

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

:35:27.:35:32.

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

:35:32.:35:39.

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

:35:39.:35:47.

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

:35:47.:35:51.

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

:35:51.:35:57.

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

:35:57.:36:03.

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

:36:03.:36:09.

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

:36:09.:36:15.

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

:36:15.:36:21.

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

:36:21.:36:25.

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

:36:25.:36:30.

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

:36:30.:36:40.
:36:40.:36:46.

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

:36:46.:36:53.

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

:36:53.:36:59.

khaki and lipstick. A little bit of lipstick went a

:36:59.:37:06.

long way, as thousands turned out to see her. I never imagined

:37:06.:37:10.

singing to 6,000 in one go. It was rather wonderful, really, you know,

:37:10.:37:15.

just to be on a little platform and look out and see all of these chaps

:37:15.:37:20.

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

:37:20.:37:25.

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

:37:25.:37:32.

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

:37:32.:37:38.

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

:37:38.:37:42.

that. It was not only large groups that

:37:42.:37:47.

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

:37:47.:37:53.

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

:37:53.:37:57.

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

:37:57.:38:05.

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

:38:05.:38:15.

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

:38:15.:38:19.

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

:38:19.:38:27.

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

:38:27.:38:32.

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

:38:32.:38:38.

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

:38:38.:38:41.

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

:38:41.:38:45.

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

:38:45.:38:53.

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

:38:53.:38:59.

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

:38:59.:39:09.

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

:39:09.:39:12.

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

:39:12.:39:21.

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

:39:21.:39:27.

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

:39:27.:39:33.

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

:39:33.:39:41.

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

:39:41.:39:46.

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

:39:46.:39:51.

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

:39:51.:39:58.

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

:39:58.:40:04.

doing all right. For the troops who had been away

:40:04.:40:14.
:40:14.:40:17.

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

:40:17.:40:22.

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

:40:22.:40:27.

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

:40:27.:40:35.

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

:40:35.:40:41.

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

:40:41.:40:47.

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

:40:47.:40:52.

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

:40:52.:40:58.

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

:40:58.:41:07.

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

:41:07.:41:16.

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

:41:16.:41:20.

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

:41:20.:41:28.

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

:41:28.:41:32.

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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