Episode 4 Remembrance Week

Episode 4

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I'm here in Helmand province, Afghanistan, with the men and women


who make up today's Armed Forces. In the lead-up to Remembrance


Sunday, we are sharing the personal war stories to understand the


enormous sacrifice made. This is Every day this week we mark the


build-up to Remembrance Sunday by listening to those marching past


the Cenotaph as they tell their personal stories of strength and


courage. We also commemorate those who have laid down their lives for


our country. Coming up in today's programme - I'm privileged to be in


the hub of operations on a frontline patrol base. Sir Matthew


Pinsent learns what life was like in the air for his great uncle


during World War I. 96-year-old Rosemary Powell remembers the first


poppy appeal, when she was just six years old. We have always worn a


poppy, ever since that day. And the reality of war hits home for one


Palestine veteran. When you're looking down the wrong end of a gun,


Camp Bastion is the engine room of all the operations in Afghanistan.


We're now going to find out what life is really like for the troops


on the frontline. Every day, these Chinook helicopters ferry men and


essential supplies to British soldiers throughout Helmand


Province. And I'm lucky enough to have been given a seat on one. I'm


flying over the deadly Green Zone to visit the men of A Company 1


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


life is like for soldiers living on the frontline in a patrol base.


This one is in the heart of the notorious Green Zone, and I'm


heading up to the watchtower to see how close we are to the front line.


The watchtowers or sangers are the main form of protection for a


patrol base. They are heavily-armed and offer a vantage point over the


countryside to prevent a Taliban attack. Rifleman Josh Scorah is on


duty. What are you looking for? General pattern of life. If there


is no locals around, that is generally a bad sign. Because if


the Taliban is in the area, they will warn off the locals from


coming out. What about those white flags in the trees? Basically,


they're Taliban flags. They come in and put these flags up in certain


areas, they will then booby-trap the flags, put some kind of anti-


Tampa device, or IEDs on the ground. So, we do not go anywhere near them.


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


reminder that we are in a dangerous place, which is why these guys in


the watchtowers are alert 24 hours a day. Major Boswell has been


commanding A Company in Patrol Base 4 for the past six months, and he


and his men have made it their own. This is where it is all that, this


is the front line for us. So, we have this patrol base, compound,


and out of boredom, we add to it over the months, making


improvements to the camp. We have got a carpenter, a welder, a


British or a painter. Just seeing these random qualifications that


the rilfe men have from various walks of life, and it all comes


together to construct a massive construction company. It is amazing.


It can be the most simple thing, like creating a drainage system for


brushing your teeth, or putting up a shower system made from old money


or sex. So everything has been built and produced by the rifleman?


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


endure the simple conditions of frontline compounds like this one.


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


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


It is a cement mixer! I don't know if that is bizarre or ingenious.


is ingenious. So, hot water it goes into the cement mixer. Yes, and


just turn it on. Just leave your washing in there, throw it in,


can't brush your teeth, come back, rinse it, stick it in for a bit


longer. It just gets the sweat out. What about the tumble-drier? That's


the sun. Even the sleeping quarters are more basic than I ever imagined.


This is where we sleep. We have got a bit of a mouse problem at the


moment. We have got our mouse exterminator, as such, this is him.


He's quite good so far. We have got six confirmed so far. When you see


life in a base, you realise just how much we take for granted in the


UK. You can't go for a quick jog outside the walls, so each base has


its own small gym. Exercise is not just about the body, it also helps


concentrate the mind, because soldiers like Jamie need to be


ready to risk their lives at any moment. Our normal day is going out


the gate... Just doing what we are trained to do. It is no different.


It is different to many people's normal day, however. Suddenly the


base seems empty and an eerie silence descends. It is quite quiet


around the camp today - where is everybody? Most of the riflemen are


out and about. Essentially, we are trying to draw them out, the


insurgents. Bash in the operations room. The Ops Room is the hub of


any operation it's where Major Boswell co-ordinates his men in


battle. By using all the intelligence, they have identified


two members of the Taliban. They are just waiting for the all-clear


to engage. Major Boswell listens carefully to all the updates on the


ground. Finally Major Boswell makes his decision. We are tracking that


guy, the commander. Everyone has got their job, everyone's


communicating brilliantly. It is an extremely exhilarating place to be.


But there is a job at hand, and they're all focused on that. His


men did not get the insurgent commander they were after on this


day. Through the leadership of Major Boswell, and precision co-


ordination, the mission is a success. But more importantly, with


only two weeks of their tour left, none of A Company were killed or


injured on the mission. These boys have been on the patrol we were


watching from the Ops Room. They must have been on foot patrol for


maybe five hours. It is baking hot. There were no casualties on this


mission, but as Jamie reminds me, that's not always the case. My mate


from camp, he was a double amputee. I was at a checkpoint at the time,


when I found out that he was blown up. I went and saw him in Selly Oak.


I was walking down the corridor, it was a really long corridor, and I


had a bit of a cry. If there is one thing I have learnt from this place,


it is just to live life to the max. You see people come and go all the


time in the army. Jamie's moving story of his friend is a reminder


of the reason I've come to Afghanistan. There is a special


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


women who have fallen in battle in How many have we lost on this tour,


and how many have been seriously injured? We have had an awful lot


wounded, and an awful lot seriously wounded, but thankfully we have


only lost two. There are some demons which we will deal with when


we get home, and we will deal with them together. But right here, it


is one big unit, one big happy family, and nothing can really


upset that. Spending time at Patrol Base 4 has given me a real insight


into how our troops live on the front line. It is really basic,


harsh conditions, but their friendships get them through. Every


time they leave those gates, they put their lives in danger. For that,


they get my utmost respect. Still to come - Blitz Ambulance driver


Peggy celebrates her 101st birthday. Everybody came together, everybody


was nice to everybody. It was like Sadly, all the combat servicemen


from the First World War have passed away. It falls upon a


different type of British hero to remember the men and women who


played their part in the Great War. Sir Matthew Pinsent has won four


gold medals for his country and since appearing on Who Do You Think


You Are? Has a newfound interest in genealogy. And he's keen to learn


more about the life of his Great Uncle Philip in World War I. I know


very little about his life. There is an amazingly touching family


photo I have, and Philip is off to one side almost in a sailor suit.


He must have been about five or six. Born in 1897, Philip was the


youngest of five sons born to Matthew's paternal great


grandparents. What I know of him, he volunteered for the air force,


although I'm pretty sure it was not called the air force. He flew on


the Western Front, he was wounded in the air, and he died one day


short of his 19th birthday. I don't know what plane he was flying, how


many missions or how long he had been flying for. I would like to


picture if I can what was going through his mind, or appreciate a


little bit more what that period of his life was like. And where better


to begin Matthew's journey into the life of his great uncle than here


at the RAF Museum in Hendon? Morning, Matthew, welcome to the


Royal Air Force Museum. David Keen is a resident aviation historian


and World War I enthusiast. And in the Bomber Hall, the history of the


Royal Air Force is brought to life. David answers Matthew's first


question of what plane Philip was flying. Your great-uncle was flying


a BE2e, which is similar to this aeroplane. It was stretched over a


wooden framework, it does not look very substantial, does it? By any


measure, it is a debt trap. You have got a cushion, a wicker chair


and a sheet of linen. It is very, very flimsy. It is just... It is


what they had to do. This is the pilot's cockpit in the rear. He


would have sat here, his observer would have been in front of him. He


would have been looking out to see how far the British Army had


advanced in the first days of the Battle of the Somme.


communication between each of these two in the air, would they be able


to shout back and forth? No, they would not be able to hear each


other, it would be purely by hand signals. These BE2es were


inherently safe aircraft, but unfortunately, that does not make


it a safe military aeroplane. The German aircraft were superior,


because this was not designed as a fighter. There is no protection at


all. There is no protection from machine gun fire or anything like


It is scratchy apart from anything else. And, very heavy. It is a


lovely jacket. Et les -- like a heavy blanket. If it gave you any


sense of protection, it would be a false one. This helmet is a leather,


soft. It is not to protect the head but to protect your ears from


frostbite. You need to see where you are going. A pair of goggles


like that. Then, you would be trying to fly the aeroplane wearing


gloves like this. With a very strong wind blowing in your face.


And, no parachute? They felt it would cramp their start in the


cockpit. And, if they had parachutes, they might jump out of


the aeroplanes. This is something which would have been familiar to


Philip. Their job was to relay information. There would be a wait.


He would fly over headquarters and chuck that out. With its bright


colour. It would flutter down helped by the lead weight. The


commander on the ground would get the information from the very front


as to how the attack was progressing. Guided solely by his


observer, Philip flew over the western front mapping our ground


troops advancement. In the museum's archive room, WW1 documents reveal


more. The aircraft would fly overhead. At low level. To see


whether troops were. That would be close enough to see a uniform?


need to be under 1000 ft to distinguish in the form, and they


needed to get down to 700 feet. They were susceptible to fire from


the ground. The Battle of the Somme was one of the most bitterly


contested and costly battles of the First World War resulting in


millions of casualties both on the ground and in the sky. The BE2E was


a very stable aircraft. Lovely for taking photos. But not a fighting


aircraft. But it would have been outclassed by German opponents.


Sometimes lucky, sometimes not. Therefore to have any chance


against the enemy Philip had to have competence and skill. Which he


demonstrated three months earlier when he left school to join the


corps. Looking on 18 March, we can find among the privates, lowest


rank in the Army, Winchester College, Officer Training Corps. He


was in the equivalent of the combined Army Cadet Force. Moving


on to the London Gazette. June 1916. Temporary second lieutenant. In


just three months, Philip become an officer. Which was the only way he


was able to be a pilot during World War I. So, a young man in his prime,


an officer in the officer corps. A certain amount of Sligo. He would


have considered himself the best. Philip was part of 34 Squadron


which moved to France in 1916 in preparation for the battle of the


Somme. And they set some pretty impressive records. The aeroplanes


flew over in three days without damage! The first squadron to land


all of their aeroplanes without a crash. It goes to show the


hazardous nature of flying in those days. And a loop the loop. Very


accomplished. In one of these aircraft, that is heroic. But on


23rd September 1916, just four months after getting his aviation


licence, Philip was shot. managed to land safely. He crashed.


The nature of flying wasn't that different. Tragically, he was


wounded. His observers did survive down to his skill, but he himself


died of his wounds. It was the eve of his 19th birthday. This is a


telegram that reported on Philip. 24th Sept 1916. It says,


dangerously ill. Gun shot wounds. Injury above the waist. That is the


vulnerable area. He was not going to survive that with the conditions


of the time with the medical available. -- medicine. And sadly,


he would lead the way for many others. So he was the first death


for 34 Sqaudron in France? Yes. wasn't the trenches of the Battle


of the Somme. One of the things about the whole First World War


experience, you get the impression no lessons were learned that that


is not the case. Certainly with aerial activity, they were keen to


make sure they reported on what was effective, what could be improved,


what worked really well and these lessons were taken to heart. Within


13 years of the Wright Brothers inventing the first aircraft,


British pilots were paving the way for modern warfare. His parents


can't have imagined that this young man was going to fly. Yeah. Gosh.


His mum might have been mortified Delving into the short life of his


great uncle, Matthew now has a clearer picture of what it must


have been light during the First World War. They might not have


known it at the time, but we have got so much from what they did. For


us, we have to say thank you. There is no other way, other than being


respectful, for two minutes of your life. That is pretty simple. The


the bombings of British cities still haunt the memories of many


but there was a forgotten army of volunteers who braved the Blitz and


saved lives. Surrounded by her close family,


Peggy Crowther is celebrating a Born in 1910, Peggy demonstrated a


passion for cars from an early age. I really loved being a driver. I


didn't like being a passenger. I took a great interest in cars. I


was quite good with engines as well. I learnt to drive as soon I was old


enough to get my licence. And I happened to be a good one, so I got


employed very quickly, and I signed on for the ambulance. Penny joined


the Ambulance Service as a driver in 1939. And, after London was


repeatedly bombed, she deliberately asked to be posted at the heart of


the devastation. I had heard by bush telephone that "Jerry" was


going to aim at the city, and the west end of London. There was going


to be a lot of misery there. If you were going to do a job like that,


you might as well start at the worst end. When Peggy was issued


with her very first ambulance, she had to follow strict instructions.


The most important thing is the ambulance. You can lose the people,


but you mustn't lose the ambulance. You've got to get the ambulance


home. That was the attitude. with so many things during wartime,


Londoners made the best of what they had to get the job done. And


this included the ambulance crews. The first type of ambulance we had


was a converted lorry. It was bit high. We had an awful job lifting


it up, to get it in. The person on the stretcher was usually a man and


very rude. Calling us all sorts of things. Being incompetent women. In


the end, we said, well, you get up and do it yourself! The relentless


bombing of London during the Blitz meant Peggy and all the ambulance


crews were called to duty on a regular basis. As the sirens went


off, and they were having dog fights just above your head, and


the bombs were falling. You didn't wait. You had to go out really if


you were going to save a life. Blitz air raids killed nearly


30,000 civilians and destroyed countless London buildings. The


east end of London. Dropped some nasty bombs there. Almost before


the dust had settled, we had to be there. And of course the hospital


became full in no time, For Peggy, these moments were the most


It was the children. A little boy of two. I always remember him, he


would claim to May. He said, I will be killed. He was terrified. The


raid was still on. He had been badly injured. I held him in the


ambulance. It felt awful to take his off arms off me. Because you


had to go and pick up other people. You have these memories that wake


you up at night sometimes. Not so much lately. They did for a long


time. But Peggy remained determined to try and help whenever and


wherever she could. Every so many days, you had a day off. But I


wouldn't take it. I had a job to do. I made the best of it. I was scared


at times. But then you see someone worse off than yourselves. On one


particular callout, Peggy and her crew had a very close encounter.


This chap suddenly turned around. He said: Have you got a vacuum


cleaner? No. In that case, perhaps you had better go for another walk.


Because it was the bomb under the settee that was I sitting on. I'm


not making it up, it's absolutely true! Amazingly, despite driving


through bombing raids everyday, Peggy was never hit herself. But,


returning home one night, she was very close to danger. Very


cautiously I opened the bathroom door and there was a bit of a shell,


red hot, in the bath. Burning away happily. The top of one of our own.


We were under Primrose Hill. A misfire came through the roof. We


went into the sitting room and got ourselves a good drink and said,


"Who's going in first?" The bombing of London and many other cities was


a major turning point during the Second World War. But, thanks to


the bravery of incredible people like Peggy, countless lives were


saved. Very happy birthday! Chin Well, everybody came together,


everybody was nice to everybody. It It was just the spirit of the whole


thing really. I had no regrets of anything I did. No regrets.


In our next story, a man's first day in the conflict zone is one he


will never forget. On one day in 1948, Charles Speight


escape the arms of the enemy twice. The first time was all down to a


The war was over, and just after Christmas I was told I was going to


the Middle East. That was Christmas 1947. I had never been abroad


before. I might have been to the Isle of Wight, but certainly never


further than that. Everybody said, you will be all right as long as


you don't go to Palestine. In 1948, Charles Speight was just 19 years


old and about to embark on his first posting as an RAF National


Serviceman. Palestine was handed over to the British under a League


of Nations mandate in 1920. Both Arab and Jewish nationalists used


violence against each other as well as towards their mutual enemy the


British. And aged just 20, it was Charles' first posting as an RAF


National Serviceman. I knew there had been troubles, but nobody


envisages that they will walk into trouble. But on 29th February 1948,


that's exactly what happened, when Charles boarded a train for the


final part of his journey. There was a regular service between Egypt


and Palestine. It was an overnight train, but it ran on a regular


basis. The front of the train was all civilians, the restaurant car


was in the middle, and the troops were at the back of the train.


Charles was in a carriage with 30 other troops, none of whom he'd met


before. We were all armed, we all had rifles, because there was


always the danger that people might attack the train, or try and steal


stuff from the train by jumping aboard. So, they took turns in


guarding both ends of the carriage. At about 2 o'clock in the morning,


I went off guard and lay down as best I could on the carriage floor.


At 4 o'clock in the morning I got a gentle kick to tell me I was on


guard. I was politely reminding them that I had already done two


hours, and I was politely reminded that I was doing another two. So, I


did another two hours on guard from four till six. The attendant from


the restaurant car came down the train asking if anybody would like


breakfast. I was with complete strangers, bear in mind, and I


asked a few guys who were near me, did they fancy having breakfast?


And nobody did. But I had been up most of the night, so I just asked


if they would look after my kit and my rilfe, which I probably should


not have left there anyway, but I did, and I went to the restaurant


car for breakfast. I think I had three rounds of toast and jam and


tea for a price in excess of three shillings, as it was then, it was


quite expensive in those days, about 15p. In the event, it was a


price worth paying. Just moments later, the train went over a land


mine. The carriage that I had been in was blown up. It was just the


beginning of a day Charles will never forget. We all went to the


back of the train, and it was not a very pleasant sight. Almost 30 of


the people I had been with had been killed, and a lot of others injured.


It was the second largest attack during the conflict, killing 28


servicemen and local civilians. realised straightaway as I was


going back that I should have been in that culture. For a start, I saw


my kit bag, I knew it was the coach I was in. I was just fortunate that


I chose to leave it and have a cup of tea and some toast. At breakfast


saved my life. But Charles' day was far from over. On arrival in


Palestine, he travelled by road to his base. The rules seemed to vary


in Palestine at that time. On some days we were asked to stop at road


blocks, on other days, we were told to go through. This particular day


was a day when we were requested to stop at roadblocks. So, we were


progressing along quite comfortably until we were actually stopped. The


next thing I knew, sitting in the back of a small truck, with canvas


on top, was when an Arab Gentleman pointed a gun at us and said, would


we get out? Which, when you're looking down the wrong end of a gun,


you do not argue. They marched us away from our truck, off the side


of the road, up the hillside. They were armed, and we were, by then,


unarmed, so there was no argument. You do as you're told. It is not


playing cowboys and Indians, it is for real. They took one of the


vehicles and all the equipment. And basically they just left us there.


We were sitting in the middle of a rocky outcrop in the middle of


Palestine, in those circumstances, when nobody knows you're there,


except the group you're with, I think you... To think, where is


this going to end? The after hours of uncertainty, Charles and his


comrades were found and rescued. was quite an introduction to


Palestine. I think it probably made me into a man, yes. A day like that


is a day you remember all your life. It stands out amongst all other


days in my life, whatever has happened since. I shall never


forget it. I shall never forget it Supporting our troops, young and


old, has always been important, but there is one military charity which


has been on hand for the past 90 years. The Royal British Legion has


only ever had one goal. The biggest part of our work is providing


welfare support to the Armed Forces community, up to 9 million people


in total. We're not just about old people, we are very much about the


younger serving generation. From veterans of the Second World War to


those serving here in Afghanistan, the Legion's message is simple -


they're here to help any way they can. That's the point about the


Legion. We are here yesterday, today and tomorrow, and for all


their tomorrows. It formed in 1921, primarily as a reaction to those


coming back from the First World War trenches, having experienced


dreadful scenes and injuries in some cases, coming back to this


country, really a country that was not judged to be fit for heroes at


the time. So this was a coming together, promoted by one of our


finders, in order to bring together a whole range of quite small


organisations into one organisation, which is today the Royal British


Legion. Everyone's needs are different, and the Royal British


Legion is on hand for support. Anybody that brings us for help, we


can be on their doorstep within an hour. It is not just an impersonal


telephone call. It is not just a helpline. But it would not be where


it is today without the generous support of the British public.


is that grassroots activity from local communities which is the


bread and butter, the life blood, of the Royal British Legion. We


rely on this vast army of supporters to keep our income


generated, so that we in turn can support that Armed Forces community.


And one of their most loyal supporters is 96-year-old Rosemary


Powell, who was at the very first Poppy Appeal in 1921, aged just six.


I had one uncle that was very badly wounded, and they said, this money


will help people like him, who were wounded. I always remember that. It


is the first thing I had really done alone, standing on the bridge,


with the River Thames running underneath, just giving people


these poppy to put in their buttonholes. I have always worn a


human, -- Warner poppy, ever since that day, we knew how important it


was. With more and more injured service personnel needing lifelong


care, this money makes sure that they can still live life to the


full. At the end of last year, we committed �50 million, our largest


single donation. We're spending around �200,000 each day, 365 days


a year. Since the Second World War there has only been one year where


a member of our Armed Forces has not been killed on active service.


We are the National custodians of remembrance. We look after the


National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire, and they're getting


300,000 visitors each year, it is a huge drawl. It is for people who


wish to visit a place where they can remember their fallen comrades


and former members of the family. Year on year, the Royal British


Legion is constantly evolving to raise awareness. But there are some


people who think we only par putt three weeks of the year, when we


are collecting for the Poppy Appeal. In fact, whilst Remembrance is a


very important part of our activities, it is one of the


smaller parts. The Legion does fund-raising all through the year,


and sometimes they call on famous faces. Increasingly we are engaging


the support of the younger generation, and younger people that


we would recognise, if you like, celebrities. And so we see


performers and artists right the way across the generations, helping


us to change the image, towards one which transcends the generations,


not just one which is associated with the older generation. And this


year marks a huge milestone for this military charity. The Royal


British Legion is 90 years young this year. We are marking it with a


series of events across the country. The objective in fund-raising terms


this year is to try to raise �90 million in our 90th year. This will


no doubt mean that thousands of supporters will dig deep and go the


distance. We do an annual Pedal to Paris, which has been going for


quite some years. It is one of just two occasions when the Arc de


Triomphe is closed to traffic. It is very well supported, it raises


about half-a-million pounds each year, just that event. Some


fundraisers go to the greatest of heights. Jump for Heroes is the


name given to two serving members of the Armed Forces, who do


freefall skydiving. They will jump from anything, as long as it is


sufficient high. Mountainsides, tops of buildings, bridges, you


name it, and they go at a terrifying speed. To mark this


special anniversary, the Prime Minister hosted a tea-party in


their honour. A very happy birthday to the Royal British Legion, one of


the finest voluntary bodies in Britain. To me, it is about


remembrance, it helps remember those who have given such sacrifice.


But above all it is about service and welfare and actually helping


people who serve the Armed Forces and making sure we do right by them,


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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