Sunday 12 July 2009


Letters sent from the front line in Helmand province by an experienced soldier. They have been edited by the Observer only for operational security.

25 June

Dear S,

The army have binned the "snatch wagon" and replaced it with Vixen and we thought, fucking hell, they are really screwing the nut [doing well] this Labour government. That is until we saw a Vixen, which is a snatch with fancy wheels, and we think some wriggly tin slapped underneath. Basically it's a PR stunt so the government can say, yes, we can confirm all snatch Land Rovers have been withdrawn from theatre and replaced by the Vixen. They are better at smoke and mirrors than Paul Daniels. It's like painting an elephant red and renaming it a fire engine.

I am moving again, mate ... to take more ground off the Taliban, but the way the head shed [headquarters] are mate it's a fucking joke, we nod [see] 4 x Taliban 150m away in a compound the other day and we were denied to go in there and kill them. The OC [officer commanding] said it wasn't worth the risk and here was me thinking the infantry's mission was to close with and kill the enemy.

I really still cannot understand why we are here. These cunts are still harvesting the poppies and growing them right outside the comps [compounds]; it's a fucking joke. The positions must really believe everything they're told by the army commanders. If anything happens to me, don't let them tell people I believed in the mission, because I don't. I am here because I'm a paratrooper. I wanted to test myself in combat and that's the truth.

This place is a fucking joke and we should fuck these money-grabbing, smelly, lazy fuckers off [MPs] and spend the money on our own.

Well, mate, enough of the rant. I am off back to Camp Bastion for two days to have pizza, coke, tea from a mug, full English, get my clothes washed, shower, air conditioning, pie chips + gravy, newspaper and some decent sleep.

16 June

Dear J,

Well we are definitely not fucking winning anything and are just going out getting shot at, shooting back, waiting for some cunt in the ops room to make decision whether we can have fire support or not because we might set fire to a field of wheat and upset the locals (fucking criminal). Well, mate, I have been blown up again, but was in one of the new Mastiff vehicles and they can take a fair old fucking wallop. I am a bit deaf but none the worse for wear. We don't get to know much in the fobs [forward operating base] about what's going on around Afghanistan.

The head sheds are really bad mate and I think they make it up as they go along. The fob I am now in doesn't have vehicles come to it because they keep getting ambushed and keep going over IEDs at a bridge at a crossroads. You would think with all the surveillance assets we possess we could do something about it but we can't. I don't fucking rate the Taliban; in fact; they are shit houses. One minute they fight, the next they hide their weapons and say they are farmers. They are fucking cowards still I keep shooting them. I hit one last week who stepped onto the road because he thought he hit me.

We don't patrol out during the day from this fob because the Taliban are quick to react and as I said they are farmers one minute and Taliban the next. They must keep their weapons close to these compounds and bring them out when called. We mount a lot of night ambushes but to no avail ... it's about time we got stuck in and battered these fuckers.

We got smashed the other day, mate, and got pinned down in a compound 150 metres from the base. We fired the Javelin to cover our withdrawal but had to wait 10 minutes for smoke again - fucking criminal. I can honestly say mate I was fucking terrified and now know what the blokes went through waiting for the whistle in the trenches in WW1.

We sprinted 150 metres with tracer and dust flying everywhere and how nobody got killed or even hit I will never know. Life's OK out here; we have plenty of water and the new ration packs are great. We know if we get hit the choppers will come but if it's too dodgy then it's the Yanks who have more fucking balls than the RAF, they will come and get you. However in the Chinooks they have a surgical team in the back who are fucking brilliant. The new Mastiff wagons are great and have been blown up about 8 times with 1 minor back injury.

27 May

Dear S,

Well things here are very fucking strange mate and the head shed couldn't organise a chimp's tea party let alone fight the Taliban. We have 30 blokes here to defend a compound that doesn't stop 7.62 [calibre ammunition] and is limited when it comes to defence. We have 4 sangers, 1 in each corner, but no front gate (you could march the entire Mexican TA band in here) and it would be hard to stop ... in our fob we haven't a qualified medic.

The only person we have is an advanced team medic, but don't let that fool you, all he can do is a, b, c, d. or the 4 bases as they know them. He asked me if I knew how to drip people as he doesn't know how to. We have been promised a medic but none has arrived but we are still patrolling.

Every field here is overflowing with poppies and from the sangers we watch the farmers go about collecting the resin to make heroin and silly me, thought we were here to stop all that but maybe not.

When we go out on patrol we can only go 300 meters to our south and the shit hits the fan big time, as the Taliban are there and open up with everything when we step into the turf. All we own mate is the fob. And about 100m around it. Everywhere else mate is poppy fields and wheat and fuck all else.

Well mate there is loads more I can tell you, but I have to go. You need to get out here mate to see this fucking circus.

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