Episode 4 Remembrance Week


Episode 4

Gethin Jones presents stories from people involved in past and present conflicts, including a Second World War gunner who describes his daring and secret missions over enemy lines.


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Transcript


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Welcome to Remembrance Week.

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I'm in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

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This place is huge.

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Its perimeter is almost 35km long,

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making it roughly the same size as Reading.

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It's also home to thousands of our servicemen and women,

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but not for much longer

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because the process of bringing them home is in full swing.

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To mark Remembrance Sunday,

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we'll hear some of their incredible stories,

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and from those who stood before them.

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Coming up on today's programme...

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In World War II,

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gunners in Bomber Command knew every day could be their last.

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One man beat the odds to tell his tale.

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I got the name of being lucky,

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a bit of a lucky character to fly with.

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A heroic medic describes

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how she fought to save the lives of people caught in a bomb blast.

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They cry, "Man down" or they a shout for a medic.

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The initial thought is the worst and you know, I always get butterflies

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and think, "Oh, my God, what's going to happen?"

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And a young Army family gets ready for daddy to come home.

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The majority of it is just going to be sat-down hugging.

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Seven months' worth of hugs are going to take quite a few hours.

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During World War II, the men of Bomber Command played a vital role

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in securing victory in Europe,

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but as we're about to find out,

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it wasn't just bombs that were dropped from their planes.

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90-year-old Bill Stoneman is turning back the clock to remember

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his time in Bomber Command, where he served in a very special squadron.

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I was always interested in the Royal Air Force,

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so in '42, I was 18 years of age.

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I made enquiries about joining the Royal Air Force.

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Just a few months later, he was accepted as a member of aircrew

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and was eager to serve straightaway.

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I sat in front of a squadron leader.

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I said, "When will I go? When do I go for training?"

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"Oh," he said, "It will be about six to seven months."

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So I said, "But I want to go now." He said, "The only way you can go now

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"is by becoming a gunner, a rear gunner, an air gunner."

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I said, "That's for me."

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He said, "Are you sure?" I said, "Yes, that's what I want to be."

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Bill's job as rear gunner was to protect the plane from enemy fire,

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a dangerous job that came with an appallingly short life expectancy,

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as little as two weeks.

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I was told by everyone, "You're going to be a rear gunner? Are you mad?"

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I suppose, youth being on your side,

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you feel a little bit, "It can't happen to me."

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Sat at the very back of the plane,

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rear gunners scanned the skies for signs of danger.

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I never waited for attacks.

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If I saw an aircraft, behaving belligerently,

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I knew he was going to have a go. I fired.

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GUNFIRE

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You're in a turret with four machine guns

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and that turret can move up, down, sideways,

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so you can point your guns at him.

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So you've got four machine guns firing 1,150 rounds a minute

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at this oncoming fighter aircraft.

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Bill's skill helped him survive many missions.

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I got the name of being lucky, a bit of a lucky character to fly with.

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Soon after joining Bomber Command,

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he was selected for covert operations.

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They said, "You're going to a special duties squadron."

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We hadn't a clue what they were talking about.

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This airfield held one of the biggest secrets of the war.

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It was from here that hundreds of agents and supplies by the tonne

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were delivered by air to occupied Europe.

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Bill was to serve in 138 Squadron,

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one of two special duties squadrons in Bomber Command.

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Their orders would come from a top-secret government agency,

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the Special Operations Executive.

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The special duties squadron

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was based at a place called Tempsford in Bedfordshire.

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It had a Halifax bomber aircraft, but instead of bombs,

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this was dropping supplies and agents...

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..these were trained saboteurs,

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into occupied territories, including Germany.

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The squadron I flew on was nicknamed, and was known as the Moon Squadron.

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Nearly all our missions were done by moonlight

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because the aircraft had to see what was happening.

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It couldn't drop in complete darkness.

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Bill and his comrades had an extremely dangerous role.

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To help them drop their secret cargo,

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they needed specially-modified aircraft.

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Bomb bay itself, two doors opened up,

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normally there would be 13 1,000-pound bombs in there,

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they'd now have, say, 12 or 13 canisters

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filled with what the agents would use for the sabotage.

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The canisters were loaded with explosives, pistols,

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ammunition, clothing, everything you can think of,

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compasses, you know, even aspirin,

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everything a person would need.

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One particular piece of cargo was more unusual than most.

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We carried pigeons.

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Now, these pigeons were in little Bakelite containers,

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with a little bottle of water,

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some seed, and

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this little canister had a parachute.

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There was also some rice paper with a questionnaire, and a stub of pencil.

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The dispatcher would release these pigeons.

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They'd float down to earth on these parachutes

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with the idea they'd be found by anyone.

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Hoping the pigeons wouldn't fall into enemy hands,

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locals in the area would fill out the questionnaires,

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then they would release the birds to carry the messages back to Britain.

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They came back with the most interesting information.

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We weren't privy to it, of course.

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Bill's secret missions took him many miles from home,

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dropping agents and supplies into occupied territories.

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At the bottom of the fuselage,

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there was a hole cut with two doors that opened, quite a big hole,

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and the agents could be dropped through this hole,

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straight out of the aircraft,

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and also any supplies carried inside the aircraft,

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they could also be dropped through this hole.

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Hiding in the dark, a reception committee of saboteurs

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would wait for the plane, then signal the location for the drop.

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They had torches on the ground to show where we should drop.

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When the light came on, bomber would say, "Drop them now,"

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as though he was dropping a bomb.

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And we would drop the supplies or agents to this reception committee.

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Those welcoming the planes were freedom fighters,

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ordinary men and women living in Nazi-occupied territories,

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willing to risk their lives to help the Allies.

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They were leaving their families at night

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and then they had to hide the supplies or help the agents.

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The curfews put in place by the Nazis made it even more risky.

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Those people had to make sure they were not captured

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because it was certain death if they were caught, I mean, that was it.

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Very brave, very, very brave people.

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Bill had lost many friends serving in this highly dangerous unit.

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He had been extremely lucky,

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outlasting the short life expectancy of a gunner,

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but his luck was about to change.

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The crew I was flying with at that time,

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I'd flown two or three operations with.

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You become like brothers.

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It's a lovely family, or just like family, and you rely on each other.

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On the night of 11 July 1944,

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Bill was on his 23rd mission.

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Setting off from Blida, an airfield in Algeria,

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Bill's crew were heading back to base.

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We got 40 miles off the coast of North Africa,

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flying towards the South of France.

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There was one almighty bang.

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The surprise was just immediate. It was just, "bang", fire.

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There was nothing they could do.

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Their aircraft was now hurtling towards the sea.

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We were all huddled together,

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just praying that the pilot did a good job and managed to make it.

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It was all over in a moment.

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Extra fuel tanks on board burst on impact.

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Now, in the Mediterranean Sea, the crew were trapped.

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The plane had filled with water,

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and a terrible stench of a lot of 100 octane fuel.

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It was very overpowering, choking.

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Struggling against the toxic fumes, the crew managed to scramble out.

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They knew there should be an emergency dinghy,

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but to their horror, it hadn't inflated.

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The aircraft was sinking, and no dinghy.

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So I knew where there was a manual dinghy release,

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which is just inside the fuselage.

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All I had to do was get back in.

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By now, the fuselage was full of suffocating fumes.

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The bomber held me by my harness, let me back in and held me,

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and I managed to turn the handle and I heard the hissing.

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The dinghy began inflating,

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but now it started to float away.

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I went in the water with my clothes on, fully dressed,

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got the dinghy, being a strong swimmer, being a Newquay boy,

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brought up by the sea, got it back to the aircraft.

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We all managed to scramble in.

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Bill and his crew had made it just in time.

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They watched on as their plane started to sink.

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The aircraft started to tilt onto this level,

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until just the fin and rudders, two big fins sticking out of the water...

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..and shouts, two shouts of "help" came from the aircraft.

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That was the navigator.

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I didn't realise that Flight Officer Farr, Tony Farr,

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the navigator, was still in the aircraft.

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I can't really explain how it hurt,

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because knowing a man so well

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and flying with him and putting your trust in him,

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and then to hear those plaintive cries for help,

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and you can't do anything about it.

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I heard those shouts for a long time, I can tell you.

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Over 55,000 men from Bomber Command lost their lives in World War II,

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the highest death rate of any British unit.

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Those who lived carry the memory of those who died.

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Our squadron alone,

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138 Squadron, lost 70 aircraft.

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I did lose an awful lot of friends during World War II.

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Wake up in the morning and there'd be empty beds.

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The aircraft just failed to return.

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As young as I was, it had a great effect on me.

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Throughout history, the role of the military medic has been vital.

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Their brave work under enormous pressure

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is a matter of life or death, and here in Afghanistan,

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a routine day can quickly turn into a lifesaving mission.

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Isobel Henderson started a career in the Army

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when she was just 16 years old.

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I joined the Army in 2004 and that was because

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my dad took me to the careers office.

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I wanted to be a dog handler, and I wasn't heavy enough!

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And then I wanted to be a driver, I wasn't tall enough,

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and then they said they were crying out for medics,

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and I thought, "Oh, yeah, let's go for that."

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At 17, Isobel became a medic with the Royal Army Medical Corps.

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As she threw herself into Army life,

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she received some upsetting news from her dad at home.

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He phoned me up and said, "I've been diagnosed with cancer."

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And then we found out it was actually quite terminal.

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I think it had been missed. You know, it was in his lymph nodes,

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it was in his lungs, it was in his liver, it was quite wild,

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and I was dead set, I was still young

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and I was like, "I want to come home, I want to be with you,"

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and he was like, "No,

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"I want you to carry on with your career as if nothing has happened."

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Sadly, in 2008, Isobel's father lost his battle with cancer.

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When Dad passed away, it was the hardest thing ever

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because my dad brought me up.

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He was a carer for my mum, who's disabled,

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he had his two girls, me and my younger sister,

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and he was my everything.

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Isobel struggled to cope without her father.

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But in 2010, with only two days' notice,

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she was called to the front line.

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When I got told I was going to Afghanistan in 2010,

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I was told I was going with the Scots Guards, so I was very...

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It was quite daunting because I didn't know anybody

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and it was a completely different regiment.

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Isobel was stationed at an isolated checkpoint in southern Afghanistan.

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I was the only female, had no female company, which was a bit daunting.

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But, yeah, the guys were welcoming enough.

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It is nice to know that there is guys looking out for you,

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especially when you're on foot patrols.

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Obviously not being as tall as some people,

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having to get over great big walls is a challenge in itself,

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so they'd help me over and stuff, so it was good.

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Word soon spread in the local area that a medic was at the checkpoint,

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and it became a busy time for Isobel.

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It wasn't all trauma and new casualties and stuff.

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We would have a lot of walk-ins. Locals would come in,

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they'd hear that there was some kind of medical facility there.

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However, as the only medic in the area,

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what happened next would really put Isobel's skills to the test.

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We were sat in the checkpoint doing our day-to-day business,

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having a chat, having a chinwag.

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A Mastiff, which is an armoured vehicle, came up to our checkpoint.

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They had a bit of a discussion with our platoon commander and stuff

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and then they left.

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As they left, we heard a large explosion.

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You kind of look up, because you can't see over the walls.

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You see a big dust cloud. Everyone just kind of froze,

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looked at each other and thought that Mastiff had been hit.

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Someone's ran out of the Ops room and shouted "mass casualty".

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So everyone is getting their kit, body armour, helmet.

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We thankfully had another vehicle,

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which we jumped into and we all made our way down to the explosion site.

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When anyone is injured, and they cry "man down"

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or they shout for a medic, your initial thought is the worst.

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And I always get butterflies

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and think, "My God, what's going to happen?"

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When you get there, you know, your training takes hold

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and you get on with it.

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As Isobel and the other soldiers approached the blast site,

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what they saw was not what they expected.

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The Mastiff was fine.

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And we looked over to the right and there was a civilian bus

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which was no longer a bus, it was more of a chassis.

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A lot of the males had died from the incident

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and they'd been blown from, you know, the wreckage. They were in a field.

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One was over a wall. One was up an alleyway.

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You know, they were blown afar.

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The women and children were the ones that had survived.

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Obviously with great injuries.

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There was a young girl still within the wreckage,

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and she was still breathing, so I kind of got focused on her.

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As the only medic on the scene, Isobel had to take charge,

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treating all the casualties from the blast.

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That was my first encounter with children.

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And obviously our training, we do do paediatrics,

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dealing with children, but it is an eye-opener.

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Me being the only medic, I couldn't...

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I haven't got octopus arms, I can't do it all.

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So the team medics had to assist, and some of them guys were dads,

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and they were having to do CPR on a child.

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At the time, you know, they carried on and they did

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what they were trained to do, but afterwards, speaking to them,

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it was upsetting hearing a dad from that perspective

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saying how hard it was to actually do CPR.

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The medical emergency response team were called in

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to take the severely injured to hospital at Camp Bastion.

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It felt like a lifetime we had the casualties for,

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but in...realistic, you know, the helicopter was en route

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and the helicopter was there within probably 25 minutes.

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But at the time it felt like a lifetime.

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Sadly, the young girl Isobel attended to first died in hospital.

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It hits home.

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Especially when you're having to treat that casualty,

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and say they do lose their life, it's soul-destroying.

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It doesn't matter if I'm not close to them, I still cry.

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You know, I shed a tear for them.

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However, Isobel's heroic actions that day

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helped to save the lives of several people.

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The only time I really thought about it was after,

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when we all sat down and was like, "What has just happened?"

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And the only way you get through it is talking about it

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and getting through it with each other.

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And you pull each other through it, I suppose.

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For brave conduct throughout her time in Afghanistan,

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Isobel was awarded an MBE in 2011.

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It's been ten years since I've walked into that careers office,

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and it's... It's my way of life.

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Probably my proudest moment is going to Buckingham Palace

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and actually marching up and receiving an award.

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If my dad was still about today, he'd still be talking about it now.

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That's how bad he would be.

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He would be a very proud dad.

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This weekend, we will honour those

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who have served and suffered in our name.

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And when we see the poppies fall,

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we'll remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

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After 40 years of loyal service

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in one of the elite regiments of the British Army,

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our next veteran reflects on

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one of the toughest conflicts he ever experienced.

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Colour Sergeant Brian Faulkner was a member of 3 PARA,

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a battalion in the elite Parachute Regiment.

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The men of the red beret stick together.

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Nobody could interfere with that little clique of men.

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He received a distinguished conduct medal

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for his bravery and dedication

0:22:290:22:31

at the Battle of Mount Longdon in the Falklands conflict.

0:22:310:22:35

His actions helped save the lives of many.

0:22:380:22:41

But Brian will never forget the 23 men they lost that night.

0:22:410:22:46

They should be remembered.

0:22:460:22:48

We will remember them.

0:22:480:22:50

Brian grew up in Yorkshire.

0:22:550:22:58

Not sure what career path to choose,

0:22:580:23:00

he decided to follow in his father's footsteps.

0:23:000:23:03

I was a miner for a while,

0:23:040:23:06

and my father was an ex-military man himself,

0:23:060:23:09

who spent quite a long time in the military.

0:23:090:23:13

He said, "I think that the best thing for you is to join the military

0:23:130:23:17

"and try and get out of the mines."

0:23:170:23:20

And then, at the age of about 18, 19,

0:23:200:23:23

I thought, "I'll have a go at the Parachute Regiment."

0:23:230:23:26

The first time I'd ever been in an aircraft

0:23:260:23:29

is when I launched myself out of it.

0:23:290:23:31

Brian spent the next 17 years in the Paras.

0:23:320:23:36

In 1982, when war broke out in the Falklands,

0:23:370:23:41

he was amongst 28,000 British troops

0:23:410:23:44

that were deployed to recapture the islands.

0:23:440:23:47

When we did operations in Northern Ireland, four, five,

0:23:470:23:50

maybe six months, you knew the start date and you knew the end date.

0:23:500:23:54

But you didn't actually know when this confrontation would finish.

0:23:540:23:59

23 days into their journey, the reality of the situation hit home.

0:23:590:24:05

I always remember sitting where we was having our meals.

0:24:050:24:09

And it came over the ship's tannoy system

0:24:110:24:14

that a British submarine had sunk the Belgrano.

0:24:140:24:18

And we all cheered. Wahey! And everybody was elated.

0:24:210:24:26

And then everybody realised that we'd made the first move,

0:24:260:24:29

we'd sunk the ship, we were actually going to war.

0:24:290:24:32

It was an eerie feeling. That's when I became scared.

0:24:320:24:38

With the sinking of the Belgrano, the conflict escalated.

0:24:410:24:46

On their way to the islands, it was decided that 3 PARA

0:24:480:24:51

would form part of the land offensive.

0:24:510:24:54

And Brian was about to be given a role of huge importance.

0:24:540:24:58

I was a qualified medic. The doctor saw me

0:24:580:25:02

and he indicated the commanding officer

0:25:020:25:05

and said, "I need more staff." He said, "Any in particular?"

0:25:050:25:08

"I would like that man over there," and that man was myself.

0:25:080:25:11

On the night of June 11th, British troops launched

0:25:130:25:16

a coordinated attack on three locations.

0:25:160:25:18

3 PARA's mission was to take Mount Longdon,

0:25:210:25:24

a key target in the recapture of the islands

0:25:240:25:27

and the liberation of the capital, Port Stanley.

0:25:270:25:29

Brian's job was to support the medics in the battle to come.

0:25:330:25:36

We knew that they weren't going to give up.

0:25:360:25:40

They had the weaponry and the ammunition.

0:25:400:25:42

And they'd been on that mountain

0:25:420:25:44

and prepared that mountain for an assault by ourselves.

0:25:440:25:48

There were these young lads of 19, 20,

0:25:510:25:53

there with bayonets on the end of their rifles.

0:25:530:25:56

They were killing and they were being killed.

0:25:560:25:58

As the battle advanced,

0:26:030:26:04

the fighting and firing became more and more furious.

0:26:040:26:08

That particular face itself, it's called Grenade Alley.

0:26:110:26:16

The Argentinians were rolling grenades down amongst us.

0:26:160:26:19

At the same time we had snipers

0:26:190:26:22

and heavy machine gun fire being fired at us.

0:26:220:26:25

There was no let-up for Brian that night

0:26:260:26:29

as he was needed all over the mountain.

0:26:290:26:32

As soon as we got either a wounded person back

0:26:320:26:36

or wounded personnel back, I would go up to the fighting platoon,

0:26:360:26:40

the fighting section, and engage the enemy with them

0:26:400:26:43

but try to establish where their wounded were.

0:26:430:26:46

You're always thinking that "It won't be me, it won't be me,"

0:26:480:26:52

but you're witnessing guys that's been shot and killed

0:26:520:26:55

who were probably thinking the same.

0:26:550:26:57

It was a dreadful night.

0:26:580:27:00

It was a bleak, bloody mountain that evening.

0:27:000:27:03

Brian was close to many of the young men

0:27:080:27:11

that lost their lives that night.

0:27:110:27:13

In our time back in England, I was the battalion rugby coach,

0:27:130:27:16

and a number of the guys that I actually saw

0:27:160:27:19

had been members of the rugby team, that had been killed.

0:27:190:27:22

That was distressful as well, seeing young men that had been killed.

0:27:240:27:28

Young 19-year-olds.

0:27:280:27:30

And in particular, which I didn't know at the time,

0:27:300:27:33

a young man that was actually killed on his 18th birthday.

0:27:330:27:37

255 British troops died in the conflict to reclaim the Falklands.

0:27:370:27:43

When I retrieved the bodies,

0:27:430:27:46

I was actually thinking of their wives, their mothers, their children.

0:27:460:27:50

We had 23 killed and 47 wounded. That's just in one night's action.

0:27:540:27:59

That's quite a lot.

0:28:000:28:02

If you think about it.

0:28:020:28:04

But if it hadn't been for Brian's bravery and determination,

0:28:080:28:12

that number would have been a lot higher.

0:28:120:28:15

The greatest satisfaction that I've ever got

0:28:170:28:20

from the conflict down there is at the end,

0:28:200:28:23

knowing that every wounded soldier that we got off that mountain,

0:28:230:28:29

which includes Argentinians that were wounded, lived.

0:28:290:28:35

Central to the operation out here in Afghanistan is the ability to

0:28:560:29:00

get our troops and essential equipment in and out.

0:29:000:29:03

Because of where Camp Bastion is in the middle of the desert,

0:29:030:29:06

the best way to do this is by air, and it's a massive challenge.

0:29:060:29:10

When Bastion Airport opened in 2006,

0:29:140:29:17

it was designed to handle no more than 12 flights a week.

0:29:170:29:22

Now they juggle an astonishing 2,500.

0:29:220:29:27

Is that Thumper going to take off from nine, yeah?

0:29:290:29:32

And it is the job of the control tower

0:29:320:29:34

to make sure the airport runs like clockwork.

0:29:340:29:37

What else have we got? Just those out to the south-west.

0:29:370:29:40

Heading the team is squadron leader Andy Gibbins.

0:29:400:29:43

This is the essential part of the Bastion cog, if you like.

0:29:430:29:49

It absolutely is. This is an extremely busy and complex airfield.

0:29:490:29:53

I would say we are about the fifth-busiest UK-run aerodrome.

0:29:530:29:57

This is where everything comes in.

0:29:570:29:59

This is where the troops come in, this is where your food comes in,

0:29:590:30:02

this is where your mail comes in, so this is the morale hub, if you like.

0:30:020:30:08

On any given day the controlling team will have 50 different varieties

0:30:080:30:11

of aircraft, from fast jets, strategic air transport aircraft,

0:30:110:30:15

rotary wing, to all different types of unmanned air systems.

0:30:150:30:19

So it's the sheer variety you have got to contend to

0:30:190:30:22

that you just don't get in the UK.

0:30:220:30:24

So you've got aircraft coming at you from every single angle.

0:30:240:30:28

Precisely, many of which we don't even see. What?

0:30:280:30:32

Isn't that your job? You'd think so,

0:30:320:30:33

but a lot of the unmanned air systems land at sites

0:30:330:30:36

that are three or four miles away from here,

0:30:360:30:39

so we've got to coordinate them into the airspace

0:30:390:30:41

amongst all of the aircraft we can see.

0:30:410:30:43

Fortunately we have pretty good radars.

0:30:430:30:45

We're effectively playing a big game of chess

0:30:450:30:47

both in the air and on the ground.

0:30:470:30:49

One of the many aircraft flying in and out of Bastion

0:30:540:30:58

are Chinook helicopters.

0:30:580:31:00

These hard-working machines are in constant demand.

0:31:000:31:03

Keeping the Chinooks fit to fly is a team of 70 engineers,

0:31:060:31:10

led by Flight Lieutenant Phil Rea.

0:31:100:31:12

I think the Royal Air Force Chinook

0:31:140:31:16

is actually the workhorse of Afghanistan.

0:31:160:31:18

It's just celebrated its 30-year birthday, last autumn, 2012.

0:31:180:31:22

Happy birthday.

0:31:220:31:24

The aircraft have been flying in every operation the Royal Air Force

0:31:240:31:28

has conducted since they got into service.

0:31:280:31:31

What are we talking? How many people will a Chinook take?

0:31:310:31:37

In the last month we have actually transported 5,500 troops

0:31:370:31:40

around this area of Afghanistan. That is amazing.

0:31:400:31:43

That just shows how much we're working these beasts.

0:31:430:31:46

They're like buses, basically.

0:31:460:31:48

Exactly. Not only essential for carrying troops

0:31:480:31:52

but also for essential supplies, too.

0:31:520:31:54

Absolutely, there's a huge reliance on these

0:31:540:31:57

to get out to the patrol bases and to the forward operating bases

0:31:570:32:00

to deliver things just as simple as water.

0:32:000:32:03

We're actually transporting about 100 metric tonnes per day.

0:32:030:32:07

If you wanted to think about it, it is like putting 100 small cars

0:32:070:32:10

into these aircraft and getting them out of these bases.

0:32:100:32:13

Being in the air around here, obviously very dangerous,

0:32:150:32:18

I imagine a lot of them have come under enemy fire.

0:32:180:32:20

How does it deal with that?

0:32:200:32:22

It is a really robust machine. This aircraft can take numerous rounds,

0:32:220:32:29

it will continue flying.

0:32:290:32:30

And some of the times,

0:32:300:32:32

the aircrew won't even know that they have been shot. Really?

0:32:320:32:36

Absolutely. We have rounds maybe go through the belly of the aircraft

0:32:360:32:40

and through these blades here. That is remarkable.

0:32:400:32:43

When we come back, my engineers will come around the aircraft

0:32:430:32:46

and do a full, what we call a Battle Damage Assessment

0:32:460:32:49

and it's only then we will know if that aircraft has been shot.

0:32:490:32:52

This dedicated team work 24 hours a day,

0:32:540:32:57

as these impressive machines are essential in life-saving operations.

0:32:570:33:02

I am massive, massively privileged to lead the 70 engineers out here.

0:33:020:33:07

They deliver at every step of the way. And...

0:33:070:33:11

the big thing for me is, when you see these aircraft take off,

0:33:110:33:16

when you see that medical emergency response team aircraft take off,

0:33:160:33:20

every single person knows that they have played a part

0:33:200:33:23

in getting that aircraft up in the air.

0:33:230:33:25

Essentially a flying hospital in the back of a Chinook,

0:33:350:33:39

it is the job of the medical emergency response team, or MERT,

0:33:390:33:43

to evacuate casualties from the front line.

0:33:430:33:45

Packed with essential life-saving equipment,

0:33:480:33:51

medical teams treat casualties mid-flight as they race back

0:33:510:33:55

to Bastion's first-class hospital.

0:33:550:33:57

'Dr Harry Pugh is a MERT volunteer.'

0:34:010:34:05

What's it like for you? What goes through your head when the call

0:34:050:34:08

comes through? You are a reservist as well.

0:34:080:34:11

You chose to come out here and be part of this.

0:34:110:34:13

What goes through your head?

0:34:130:34:15

Your heart rate goes up as you sprint out here, you just want,

0:34:150:34:21

you are going out thinking and hoping you will be able to do

0:34:210:34:24

the best job possible and making sure that the team will be working

0:34:240:34:28

and everybody will be working together to get that casualty back.

0:34:280:34:33

You're just wanting to do the best job you possibly can.

0:34:330:34:37

When you get to a location you have no idea what's ahead of you.

0:34:370:34:41

Sometimes it can be hot, meaning there are rounds coming in at you,

0:34:410:34:47

so it can be quite full-on.

0:34:470:34:49

The Chinook is a massive target,

0:34:490:34:52

so to support the medical team while they are saving lives,

0:34:520:34:56

an Apache helicopter flies alongside,

0:34:560:34:58

protecting them against enemy fire.

0:34:580:35:00

You try and shut out all of the difficult situations going on

0:35:000:35:07

and the Apache's overhead, they are keeping you safe.

0:35:070:35:11

I do it because I want to look after the soldiers

0:35:110:35:15

because they are the guys on the ground,

0:35:150:35:18

they are doing the hard work and they need to be, know that there are

0:35:180:35:21

people out there who will look after them if they are injured.

0:35:210:35:24

In the lead-up to Remembrance Sunday, who do you think about?

0:35:280:35:31

When they read out the names, you think about them.

0:35:310:35:35

People you have treated and their families.

0:35:350:35:39

And it's a sad, sad time and you are remembering, really,

0:35:390:35:45

and very especially about people who are left behind

0:35:450:35:51

because that's the important thing.

0:35:510:35:53

One of the hardest parts of deployment

0:36:090:36:11

for our servicemen and women

0:36:110:36:13

is the amount of time they spend away from home.

0:36:130:36:15

We're about to join one family

0:36:150:36:17

who are counting down the hours before seeing their loved one again.

0:36:170:36:22

Sam Collier and her children, River and Wyatt,

0:36:300:36:34

are getting ready for a very special occasion.

0:36:340:36:37

Where do you want this one? Here?

0:36:370:36:40

Today, loving husband and proud daddy Gary is coming home.

0:36:400:36:45

He's returning from a seven-month tour of Afghanistan.

0:36:450:36:48

I do get really excited.

0:36:480:36:51

I tend to plaster the house with as many balloons

0:36:510:36:54

and banners that I can fit around the place.

0:36:540:36:58

I like to shout it out that he is home.

0:36:580:37:01

He's coming home on a plane.

0:37:050:37:07

Not a bus or a bike. Only a plane.

0:37:080:37:13

Sam and Gary first got to know each other in April 2004.

0:37:200:37:25

We met online and spoke for a couple of months and then eventually decided

0:37:250:37:30

to have a meet and see each other face to face.

0:37:300:37:33

I fell in love with him straight away.

0:37:390:37:41

I can remember exactly what he was wearing at the time,

0:37:410:37:45

and I just knew from there

0:37:450:37:46

that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

0:37:460:37:49

After just three months together,

0:37:510:37:54

Gary whisked her away for a romantic weekend.

0:37:540:37:57

Camping, where he proposed.

0:37:570:38:00

We spent a whole week camping together which kind of made me think,

0:38:000:38:05

if I can spend a week camping with him with no TV, no outside world,

0:38:050:38:09

then I reckon it will work in the long run.

0:38:090:38:12

They married just before Christmas. But only five months later,

0:38:120:38:18

Gary left for his first tour of duty, leaving Sam at home.

0:38:180:38:22

He went to Iraq in the May time.

0:38:250:38:28

At first it was a shock to the system.

0:38:300:38:34

I was a little bit apprehensive about being here,

0:38:340:38:37

but he went out and brought me a dog to keep me company.

0:38:370:38:40

Gary is a sergeant in the infantry. His main responsibility

0:38:400:38:45

is to maintain communications on the front line.

0:38:450:38:48

Gary has been on three tours since we have been married,

0:38:480:38:51

first in Iraq, then a few years later he went to Afghan,

0:38:510:38:55

and this time he's gone back to Afghan again.

0:38:550:38:58

Are you ready to watch Daddy?

0:38:580:39:00

'It is Daddy, I just wanted to send you a message saying

0:39:000:39:04

'I love you lots and lots and I miss you.

0:39:040:39:06

'I miss you all the way to the moon and back.'

0:39:060:39:09

As a loving father, Gary often sends video messages to Sam and children.

0:39:090:39:13

'I love you beyond the stars.

0:39:130:39:15

'Be a good girl for Mummy and I'll be home soon.'

0:39:150:39:17

It never gets any easier for Sam.

0:39:170:39:21

You know it will be a long time before he comes home,

0:39:210:39:24

so you try and make yourself stronger and concentrate on the children,

0:39:240:39:28

getting into a routine and focus your mind on something else.

0:39:280:39:32

Otherwise you're just going to worry yourself sick.

0:39:320:39:36

It's still hard, you never truly get used to it,

0:39:370:39:40

but you get more understanding as each one comes along.

0:39:400:39:44

For River and Wyatt,

0:39:540:39:55

being away from their daddy for so long is hard to understand.

0:39:550:39:59

With River being the older one she misses him a lot more.

0:39:590:40:03

Quite regularly I do have to bring out a map to show River

0:40:030:40:07

just how far away Daddy is, although to a four-year-old,

0:40:070:40:11

that kind of looks like, "Well, it's only a handprint away, Mummy."

0:40:110:40:15

Months of counting down the days

0:40:170:40:19

until Daddy comes home are almost over.

0:40:190:40:22

Today, they will see him again.

0:40:220:40:24

It says Daddy is home in...no days!

0:40:240:40:30

That means today Daddy's home!

0:40:300:40:35

I do a countdown for the children

0:40:370:40:39

so they can see that it is going down,

0:40:390:40:42

so they have a visual that it's getting closer.

0:40:420:40:46

I am excited now, really excited.

0:40:460:40:49

Having Daddy home isn't the only celebration today.

0:40:490:40:53

The day he comes home will be River's birthday.

0:40:530:40:56

so there will be a lot of presents opening.

0:40:560:40:58

It is my birthday when Daddy gets home.

0:40:580:41:01

The majority of it will be sat there hugging,

0:41:040:41:07

seven months worth of hugs will take quite a few hours.

0:41:070:41:10

It's actually quite an amazing feeling.

0:41:130:41:17

I don't think there will be a dry eye around, I do get so emotional

0:41:180:41:21

when I see him for the first time.

0:41:210:41:23

Come on, guys, are we ready to go and get your daddy? Yeah!

0:41:230:41:28

All the emotions that you have been suppressing for seven months

0:41:280:41:33

just burst out and, yeah, there will be a lot of tears.

0:41:330:41:37

The moment has finally come.

0:41:420:41:44

Sam, River and Wyatt join all the other families to welcome

0:41:440:41:47

their brave men and women back home.

0:41:470:41:49

MUSIC: "Paradise" by Coldplay

0:42:030:42:09

The Colliers are reunited at last, and so are the many other families,

0:42:160:42:21

all sharing the same tears of joy.

0:42:210:42:24

After a prolonged time being away from the family

0:42:280:42:31

it really feels pretty amazing to be home at last.

0:42:310:42:34

And I managed to make it home for my little girl's fourth birthday

0:42:340:42:37

so it's a double celebration.

0:42:370:42:39

I love you, darling. I love you, too, Daddy.

0:42:420:42:45

On tomorrow's programme:

0:42:550:42:58

A German refugee describes how he almost died fighting for Britain.

0:42:580:43:03

I was of course well aware

0:43:030:43:05

that I was volunteering to fight against my country.

0:43:050:43:09

I didn't think of it as my country.

0:43:090:43:12

It was fighting against the Nazi barbarity,

0:43:120:43:15

that's why we wanted to be in fighting units.

0:43:150:43:18

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:240:43:27

A Second World War gunner in Bomber Command describes his daring and secret missions over enemy lines; and a young medic tells of her heroic fight to save the lives of children caught in a bomb blast in Afghanistan.


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