These brave men deserve your support

In an open letter to EDP readers, Lt Col Stuart Carver outlines why he believes the public of East Anglia should give their full support to the Royal Anglian Afghanistan Memorial Fund and his soldiers on their homecoming.

Ahead of the deployment to Afghanistan, the commanding officer of the 1st battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, Lt Col Stuart Carver forecast that the tour would be the most dangerous faced by the battalion in years.

Six months on, his prophesy has been proved to be starkly close to the truth. As his soldiers return home - proud but tired - from Helmand province, thoughts turn to family and friends but also fallen and injured comrades as fund-raising for the £100,000 Royal Anglian Afghanistan Memorial Fund takes on a new momentum and is being backed by the EDP.

Here, in an open letter to EDP readers, Lt Col Carver outlines why he believes the public of East Anglia should give their full support to the fund, and his soldiers on their homecoming.

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“In March 2007, the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, known as the Vikings, deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan for a six-month tour of duty. As I write, the battalion is on the verge of returning to its barracks in Surrey.

“We return with an extraordinary tale to tell. When we arrived in March, many commentators were claiming the war was already lost - but the change in the nature of operations over the six months has been astonishing.

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“The Taliban have been beaten back and dislodged from their comfort zones in the Green Zone of the River Helmand because the Vikings have taken a determined fight to the enemy.

“In doing so, we have been involved in some of the most ferocious close quarter combat the British army has experienced for decades in extremely challenging terrain and temperatures that exceeded 50 degrees at their peak.

“The real measurement of success, however, has not been the numerical destruction of our foe but the embryonic beginning of reconstruction projects and the return to a more normal pattern of life particularly in the vital town of Sangin.

“The Vikings represent the best of East Anglia; 600 men and officers recruited from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, who have performed brilliantly.

“Despite the very real risk to life and limb, they have risked everything to make Afghanistan a better place. Winning the consent of the local population, many of whom have been displaced by the fighting, has been essential too and it has only been in the last few months that the level of consent achieved by the Vikings has allowed engineers and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to sponsor the enormous task of development and reconstruction.

“That said, there is still much more to do and the campaign will go on for some time yet.

“Our advances have not been without cost. Nine Vikings have died during the tour and a further 57 have been wounded in battle.

“There will not be a town in East Anglia that does not know someone who has been injured. Even though the medical support provided by our medics in theatre and at various hospitals in the UK is first class, some of our men will be scarred for life by their injuries.

“That is why we have established the 1 R Anglian Afghanistan Memorial Fund.

“The purpose of the fund is two-fold. Firstly, to provide assistance to those who have been seriously wounded, to help them have the best possible quality of life and to assist the families of those killed.

“Secondly, to raise money for a permanent memorial to be erected to those from the Royal Anglian Regiment who have died during this tour.

“The fund has been established for just over two months and has already raised over £41 000, mostly from generous donation.

“When we return to the UK, the Vikings will be raising the profile of the fund by planning a series of fundraising activities in East Anglia.

“In the immediate term we have been invited to exercise our right to the Freedoms of Norwich on November

22 and Bury St Edmunds on November 23.

“There will also be a public memorial service in Norwich Cathedral after the parade on November 22.

“If you can spare the time, why not come out and give a public show of support?

“It would mean a great deal to the soldiers to realise that people at home appreciate the sacrifices they have made.

“If you would like to contribute to the Memorial Fund then please send a cheque to: Maj RC Barrett, Fund Treasurer, Batt-alion Headquarters, Eliz-abeth Barracks, Pir-bright, Surrey, GU24 0DT.

“Please do support your local Regiment.”

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