THE head of the Army in the region has spoken for the first time about the bomb blast that killed six soldiers in Afghanistan earlier this year, and paid tribute to the people of Yorkshire for honouring their deaths.
Brigadier Greville Bibby, the commander of the Army in Yorkshire and the North-East, says the death of five soldiers aged between 19 and 21 from 3rd Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment (3 Yorks) and one from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in the deadliest single attack on British forces in Afghanistan since 2001, were “deeply shocking” and brought back painful memories of his own time serving on the front line in Helmand.
Private Anthony Frampton, 20, Corporal Jake Hartley, 20, Private Christopher Kershaw, 19, Private Daniel Wade, 20, and Private Daniel Wilford, 21, all of 3 Yorks, and 33-year-old Sergeant Nigel Coupe, were killed just a few weeks after arriving in the country when their Warrior armoured vehicle was blown up by a massive improvised explosive device (IED).
Their funerals are currently taking place across the region, with huge crowds turning out to honour their memories.
And Brigadier Bibby says the people of Yorkshire can be proud for how they have responded to the tragedy.
“The thing about the Yorkshire Regiment is they are a fiercely proud local regiment, therefore the impact is always going to be much greater,” said the Brigadier, who received a CBE for his services to Afghanistan in 2009.
“Losing one soldier always has an impact on a community, but when you suddenly lose five from a county that is so proud and in many ways quite unified in that pride, the impact is much greater.
“I have worked in every part of the UK and the patriotism and the sense of pride in Yorkshire is reflected in very few places I have been to.
“Things of that enormity have happened while I have been serving, but nothing I have been intimately related to or within my responsibility.
“The enormity of it is deeply shocking, you then think about how did that happen, or if they suffered. All these other things come to mind, it is horrible.
“What it does to any soldier who has been to Afghanistan, is bring back all those memories and the shock and the horror of losing friends. Every time it happens you get choked up.
“I know because I have been there, that means every time a soldier goes out in a vehicle or goes out on patrol there will be that nagging doubt in their minds that it could be them.
“But the soldiers out there have done incredibly and are very resilient. They have literally picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and moved on – that is what they do.”
The Brigadier has also praised the strength of the bereaved families and says at a funeral earlier this month at Huddersfield Parish Church for Pte Anthony Frampton, his mother Margaret Charlesworth read out a letter he had written in case he died and urged the watching soldiers to do the same.
“She put a finger in my chest and said: ‘did you write a letter when you went to Afghanistan?’,” he said. “I said: ‘I didn’t, I just couldn’t bring myself to. Every time I tried to I started crying. The idea of writing a letter to my children to say I’m dead, I couldn’t do it’.
“Well, she said: ‘you jolly well should have done’. It was emotional and very moving.
“The support and genuine outpouring of grief must be of great comfort to the family that their son’s death has not gone unnoticed.
“I think outside of the political debate, knowing the nation supports you is a really important aspect for the soldier.
“If you thought you came home and nobody would come to your funeral – that is a very difficult place to be.”