Royal Anglian soldiers patrolling the secure Canal Zone area of Nad-e Ali showed they must still remain alert to the threat of roadside bombs.

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With our patrol just a few hundred yards from the safety of the ANA checkpoint at Samsor, our progress came to an abrupt halt in the stifling midday heat.

Holes in the road had been spotted which raised suspicions of a possible IED (improvised explosive device) – and “ground signs” like this are always taken extremely seriously.

Pte Curtis “Peaches” Thompson, 19, from Colchester, who operates the metal-detecting equipment for his section, was called into action.

“I got a reading saying there was probably something there that shouldn’t be, so I got down on the ground to start sweeping the floor,” he said. “In the end, I was happy that there was nothing there. It looked like they could have dug a hole ready to put something in it or to look and see what we would do.

“The job does not give you any extra pressure. When you go through pre-deployment training, you just want to make sure you are good at it, because at the end of the day I am not worried about myself, but most of these blokes have wives and girlfriends and if I miss something it might not be me that stands on it. It could be three or four people back.”

Pte Thompson said the area was a lot quieter than he expected it to be.

He said: “Some of the people in our platoon were up here just to the north two years ago and they were saying you couldn’t get anywhere near here. Now it is extremely quiet. You can go into the bazaar and you can talk to the locals. The kids are not afraid of you – far from it.”

Also taking part in the patrol was Pte Ashley Welch, 23, from Gorleston, who is on his second tour of Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment.

He agreed that the area was much quieter than before – which he said was a source of frustration for an infantry soldier primed for action.

The former Oriel High School student said: “To start with, the ANA are a big difference. On the tour before, they didn’t really seem to care, but now they are more equipped and more disciplined and they actually want to improve their country and get rid of the Taliban.

“I have only been in one contact out here, and it was Afghan-led. It only lasted five minutes and it was disappointing not to get a few more rounds off.

“That is what we have trained for. It is our bread and butter, although we have got make this place more safe for the locals.

“At the end of the day, we are going in a couple of years. We are closing down bases where we don’t need to be any more and the locals seem to be more pro-ISAF and they want a peaceful life.”

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