Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Colour Sergeant Mike Saunders, 2 MERCIAN, blogs from Helmand - Part 19

Greetings friends and readers at the Marwood, Worcester!

This will be my last blog for a few weeks as I will soon be going home for some rest, I hope to see some of you in person as I will make a visit to the Marwood on my return.

This week the theme, if such a thing exists with my ramblings, is departures. We have all seen the news and know of the great losses sustained in the fierce fighting here. What is less publicised is the soldiers who return home injured or at there end of tour, both of which deserve attention and recognition for different reasons.
For those injured soldiers the road to recovery may be a long and painful process and we must guard against not including them as the friends and comrades that they are.

This is difficult as the pace of operation’s here continues and on return the drive to restart lives put on hold is intense. For some seeing again the injured and the results of such injuries can be a traumatic process that will force them to relive moments that will have been buried deep. Individuals will deal with this in different ways and I for one will not judge any man who finds meeting casualties again too much.

After our previous tour I made a few visits to the Forces rehabilitation centre at Hedley Court. I was struck by a number of things but mostly the quantity of the casualties and their absolute refusal to be defeated by the injuries inflicted upon them. It sounds like a cliché to say that I was humbled by these soldiers, but I was and I still am.

If the pictures on the news of the crowds at Wooten Basset teach us one thing, it is that soldiers will always be soldiers, regardless of when their service ends and indeed for what reason. I sat here and watched with my colleagues the pictures as the hearses drove through the town. For us who serve here this was an emotional time as we had seen these men on to the plane that would take them home and then they were there, in the spotlight of the world media for all to see and acknowledge.

I must admit that a small part of me did not want to see this, as if by avoiding it the truth would be somewhat diminished and some of the shock dispersed. Alongside the well wishers and the general public were soldiers old and new, some of whom will have tasted the bitterness of loss and the sadness of seeing good friends injured in the line of duty.

We as a Battalion have sent many friends home, some of whom will take many months to recover if they can at all. I speak of people like Major Stuart Hill one of the Company Commanders who was injured badly in the incident that took the life of Private Robbie Laws. He is now in a fight of a different kind as he must now try to climb the mountain of recovery which is set before him. He will do this in the same way that he conducted himself here, with pride, dignity and the tenacity that befits an Infantry soldier.

We have also sent friends home who have completed their time with us and in doing so have built strong bonds that have been tested to the limit in a place that does not support petty unit differences or minor grudges. In this case I speak of people like Colour Sergeant Al Dunn, who has got to be the angriest man I have had the pleasure of meeting. Al came to us with the Company from the 3rd Battalion the Royal Scottish Regiment and was given to us to be a Company Quartermaster Sergeant. This task involves ensuring that men and material get to the right place at the right time and is as difficult a task as it is critical.

Al while being angry secretly possessed a heart of gold that was well hidden, but not unseen beneath a gruff archetypal Scottish exterior. Indeed I recall vividly him enjoying himself greatly with us all as he sat and enjoyed the feast we had on St Georges day, surrounded by Englishmen as if he was born to be there!
To Al and others who will be gone by the time I return from leave I wish only the best of luck and if there is any justice we will meet again near a bar so I can secure the pint that he owes me.

In all of this I am reminded that departures can be the saddest of times but on reflection they can be the foundation on which great memories are made. We are given over in this life to make many partings some of which will inspire us, some of which will rend our hearts in two. Experience of such comings and goings are the fabric by which we make the backgrounds for our life, they bring meaning and substance to the ebb and flow of all that we are and as such we must embrace the opportunity to keep moving forward while fixing an eye on those of whom we have left behind.

Soon I will be amongst my family and friends and it will be strange for some time to not wake up and go through the routine of my day here, for a time I will miss my friends that continue on in my absence but I will rejoin them soon enough.
For the time being readers be careful, be safe and remember to live in the now. I will leave you with a short poem I wrote after watching the repatriations of so many of our number that to recall it brings me sadness.


The villagers of Wooten Bassett stood,
As the hearses all went by.
Above the sky had opened,
As if the clouds themselves did cry.
Old and young stood silent,
As they thought about the cost,
While families of fallen men grieved from sudden loss.
Meanwhile several hours ahead and a thousand miles away,
The fallen soldier’s comrades had seen out another day.
Another day of fighting in this distant brutal land,
Another day of being the line drawn in the sand.
Soon the fallen soldiers name will be chiselled into a wall,
Please remember not the statue,
All gave some, some gave all.


  1. Sir,
    I read your poem with feelings of sadness, but also of great pride and comfort in the knowledge thatmy young son (3 Rifles) who will depart for Helmand soon will be amongst comarades willing to look after each other under such difficult circumstances.
    Enjoy your home leave with your fsmily.


    Flt Lt Peter Carrington RAFVRT

  2. Sir,
    I read your poem with feelings of raw emotion, but also with a sense of great pride and comfort in the knowledge that my son, who departs soon for Helmand with 2 Rifles, with be amongst friends and comarades who who will look after each other under such difficult circumstances.

    I have read your blogs with intrest and wish for safe return to your family and friends.

    Flt Lt Peter Carrington RAFVRT & proud father

  3. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/16/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  4. Your Poem was fantastic. Enjoy your rest with family and friends.

    Take Care

  5. Dear Colour Sgt Saunders:

    As always, thank you for the candid update and your service.

    I wish you safe travels and a wonderful time with your family!

  6. Keep up the good work, God bless you and the rest of the British Forces.

  7. Colour Sgt Saunders, I wish you and your comrades well and safe return. I am an old soldier of some 30 years past and have been fighting for the recognition of those that returned wounded and those with memories that we should be thankful we do not have to live with.

    I have suggested a Veterans Day public Holiday separate from Remembrance Day so that we take time out to remember those that returned home broken and those that served and show our appreciation and have used much of what you have written to show why.

    Former Gunner Richard Reeve

  8. Hope to see you in the Marwood and buy you a pint!

  9. Dear Sir, I don't know how I got on this page to read your letter and your wonderful poem but i'm a female civi from Lancashire just surfing the web. I have a family who have served in the british army for many, meny years. My Niece is 25 years old and is currently with the T.A. I just want to wish you and your comrades a very safe journey home.

    God to Bless

    Angie x

  10. dear colour sgt saunders
    i wish you and all the brave men and women out there all the best. i know how it feels having my husband out there ( 10 fd sqn ) it is hard for us at home but i can't bare to imagine what it is like for all of you. i pray everyday that you all return safe. Mrs S.M.Dobson.

  11. Pts Dale Wilson and all the men in A company.

    Well done to you all, you do our country proud.

    First round is on us.

    Dales, Nan and Grandad

  12. Dear Colour Sgt Saunders
    I want to wish you and all your collegues the very best. I can only imagine what you all have to deal with over there. My son is an AET in the Jt Helicopter Force due back out again soon.

    I hope that you have a wonderful time with your family and if you are visiting Hedley Court please pass on my best wishes to all the brave men and women there and I hope that they make as great a recovery as best that they are able to. Our thoughts are with you all may you all return safe. Your poem is amazing just says it all