Craig, 19, talks about serving in a war

A Norfolk soldier serving in Afghanistan, which has claimed the lives of 11 members of the British forces in the last month, has spoken about how strong friendships are forged in the face of daily death threats and the importance of having support from people back home.

A Norfolk soldier serving in Afghanistan, which has claimed the lives of 11 members of the British forces in the last month, has spoken about how strong friendships are forged in the face of daily death threats and the importance of having support from people back home.

Pte Craig Webb, of the 1st Royal Anglian Regiment, served with L/Cpl Alex Hawkins, who died last month in an explosion, and is back home in Beetley, near Dereham, with his family for two weeks of rest and recuperation, having spent four months on tour in the troubled country.

And he revealed how close the members of the battalion had become, and the joy of seeing his family again.

The 19-year-old, who is nicknamed Mr Kipling because his grandmother is always sending him cakes, said: "When we were sitting on the runway waiting to take off to go to Afghanistan, there were a lot of nerves flying about. It's the fear of the unexpected.

"It was the same on our first patrol. The first time we made contact with the opposition I didn't have time to think about what was happening. The training just kicked in. It's so heavily drummed into you I didn't even think about it.

"The people there are grateful to have us there. Children run up to us in the street and try to talk to us. We have to use the interpreter, though, because we don't speak the language.

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"You don't and can't get emotionally involved. You just put things to the back of your mind and get on with the job in hand.

"Then when you're chilling, you have time to sit down and think about it all.

"When there is something bothering you, you know you can always talk to the guys about it. There's nothing we can't say or talk to each other about. The boys are very close.

"Being in that environment, spend-ing all that time together, we see and hear things most people don't ever see or hear. There's a massive difference between people who have been over there and who haven't. You'd do anything for the guy standing in line next to you.

"Receiving packages and knowing people are supporting you is such a morale boost and vital for us."

Pte Webb has spent the last week unwinding by visiting the beach, going to the cinema, bowling and seeing old friends, and for his family it is a relief to realise he is still the same person.

Dad Graham, 47, said: "He's seen things that no person should ever have to see. And we were worried that would change him. He's a light-hearted bloke who's always joking about and we hoped it wouldn't have got him down. It's been great having him back, seeing he's still the same person. Admittedly, he looks at things differently now."

And his mum, Karen, 48, said: "It's lovely having him back home, and being able to see he's safe. With all that's been going on recently it's a nerve-racking time for families - especially with the death of Alex. You worry a lot. I don't think you can understand how it feels unless you've got a son over there."

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