How one Great Yarmouth man and his dog are saving soldier’s lives in Afghanistan

As he hunts out Afghan bombs with his search dog Tink, Private Connor Darton is determined to protect his friends' lives.

For the 20-year-old Great Yarmouth man – one of the youngest serving dog handlers in Helmand province – is on his first tour scouring the terrain for deadly booby traps.

The former Flegg High School pupil is in the Royal Anglian Regiment and trained in Germany and the USA to join the military working dog squadron.

He flew out to Camp Bastion on March 3 and spends his days on patrol – surrounded by rivers and marshes – scouting out Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) with his highly trained golden labrador.

The duo have uncovered more than half a dozen bombs which have been safely defused, and Pt Darton says his work is 'very rewarding'.

His wife Caitlin, 20, said: 'He's enjoying it thoroughly and says it's very rewarding, as they could find something that saves the lives of friends and colleagues. Caitlin wed her husband in December 2011, and while the law student misses her husband, she says he is living his dream – having followed in the military footsteps of his father Martyn, now a factory manager in Yarmouth.

'He's always wanted to join the army,' revealed Caitlin. 'He never thought he could train as a dog handler but once he was told he could he was stupidly happy and it was the only thing he talked about for months.'

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After finishing at Flegg High, Pt Darton trained at Harrogate Army College for two years then joined the Royal Anglian Regiment.

When offered the chance to train as a dog handler, he embarked on a fortnight's attack training in Germany followed by a five-week course in South Carolina, USA. Pt Darton was paired with 18-month-old Tink – a golden labrador trained as a pup – and Caitlin says they have grown to be inseparable since flying out to Afghanistan in March.

'He loves her to pieces and he's hoping she will be able to be rehomed after the tour,' she said. 'He goes out on patrols most days and they look for IEDs where the locals live. The dog signals they've smelt something and lies down in front of where it is – they then call the patrol to defuse it. They've done really well so far and haven't lost anyone in the regiment.'

Pt Darton is due to finish his first tour at the end of September and his friends and family – including his brother Reece, 17, and sister Andrina, 21, who both live in Yarmouth say they are looking forward to him returning home safely.

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