Sunday, 9 February 2014

When you go home...

This is from the top of the memorial to the fallen taken in Nad-e-Ali, in 2012, during a visit to G4S staff working there in support of the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team.  It was shot hand held, at night.  I did think of cleaning the memorial before taking the photograph, but it seemed more poignant not to.  When we are done there I wonder if this will remain, or be brought back to the UK, much as some of the memorials in Iraq have been.

The military have been working hand in glove with the civilian administrators in Helmand since 2007.  The mission has civil primacy, and the Head of Mission, always a senior career British diplomat, was usually the equivalent of a 2 star general, and so outranked the British brigadier (a 1 star post) running the military aspect of the civil / military mission as Commander Task Force Helmand.

There are a lot of men on this plate.  Some from my own Regiment and others that I have known.  We paid a brutal price for clearing the Taliban from this area.  The Welsh Guards had a particularly vicious tour here in 2009, losing their Commanding Officer, a Company Commander, a Platoon Commander, and dozens of other men.  I knew these first two.  In fact I lived opposite the Company Commander, and we shared lunch shortly before he was killed.  I came away from lunch thinking that he had seen his future and it was bleak.  I also knew Dan Shepherd, from the JF EOD Group, who had spent some time with us in Musa Qala helping to clear improvised explosive devices from the town and neighboring countryside.  He was a good man.  They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.

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