Lancashire soldiers have come home from Afghanistan for the last time. It’s been a challenging 12 years for British troops, with more than 400 lives lost as a result of the conflict.
One soldier spoke to the Lancashire Evening Post about his experiences, and his thoughts on finally being home.
Kingsman Ben Scott-Thrale, of the North West’s Infantry, The 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster Regiment (2 LANCS), has been to the war-torn country three times.
Ben, from Leyland, had his 21st birthday on the latest tour, and said he had lost a stone and a half in weight because of the rationing.
He had been focussed on maintaining the area and closing it down, and said: “I was dealing with all the rations, all the food and water.
“It was a lot quieter compared with the last time I went out.”
Ben, who has been on two tours and a training exercise in Afghanistan, said the experience had changed him as a person.
He said: “I feel more mature and grown up.
“It makes you have a look at life because obviously it’s very poor out there, and you get here and you’ve got everything.
“It makes me feel quite lucky. I feel proud and I get a lot of support from people.”
The soldiers had been in Afghanistan since around April this year.
Their remit was to be available to support the Afghan police and hand over control of Nad-e Ali to the Afghan Security Forces.
The number of soldiers, along with their equipment and supplies, is being scaled down in the country after 12 years, in a move which will culminate in the removal of all British forces in 2014.
Ben is now on leave after volunteering to stay in Afghanistan an extra month, and he will return to Weeton Barracks in November.
He said: “It’s just a good feeling getting off the plane and feeling the fresh air - we’ve had dust for months.
“I couldn’t wait to get home and see my little sister (Rubie). I missed her loads while I was out there - I was always ringing and speaking to her and since I’ve been back I’ve been picking her up from school.”
Ben joined the army at 16 and said he was used to being away from home.
He said: “Obviously people miss you and it’s good to see them, but I’m just used to it.
“I don’t like it but you get on with it.”
Ben said that he hoped to pass a training course and gain a promotion in January, taking him to the rank of Lance Corporal.
His mum Sharon Haworth, 42, said she was very proud of her son.
She said: “I’m happy that he’s home and that he’s safe and sound and fit and well, and everybody is pleased to see him.”
Among the other soldiers at the barracks last week was Sgt Warren Fletcher, 40, from Wesham.
He said: “Family always plays on your mind when you’re on a tour and it’s always the same.
“Missing them is always going through my mind and it’s always going through theirs as well.
“I first went to Afghanistan in 2010 and there was a lot more action then because we were in the process of setting up the security, but now we can see a difference because of the things we’ve put in place.”