In May this year an unseen opportunity arose. It was a chance for me to meet a group of Afghan veterans, and to call them veterans is correct in every aspect but such a word certainly betrays the age of this hardened lot. All were, at this point, reluctant members of Hasler Company, the Royal Marines rehabilitation unit based in Plymouth.
Supervised and put-up by Royal Navy Surgeon Commander Anthony Lambert (‘Doc’), the lads spent a late spring, early summer weekend surfing, laughing, drinking and refining an already galavanised camaraderie. What I saw, experienced, heard and pondered in rural Cornwall has left an indelible mark on me. My civilian mindset could not – and almost refused to – adapt to the sight of tragically disfigured young men, many of whom were younger than my 22 years. Age aside, they had been to that place, to that distant conflict where heat kills, roads kill, and where every facet of their strength is strained to the limit. They were, and are older.
I am keen to remember these lads, for they allowed me, if only temporarily, an insight into a largely unknown but brilliant community. They are immensely proud and would inspire anyone of us – in the forces or on ‘civvy street’.
These photos do little justice to the weekend passed, but in the circumstances I am glad to have at least attempted to document this extraordinary time.
* I ve recently added some photos from our second visit to Polzeath. They can also be found on the post Happy the Soldier Home
Some photos will remain omitted, and others should have been taken…