Soldiers head to troubled province

THE final group of soldiers from Colchester Garrison to be sent out to war-torn Afghanistan will leave the town this week - with the first 120 departing last night.

THE final group of soldiers from Colchester Garrison to be sent out to war-torn Afghanistan will leave the town this week - with the first 120 departing last night.

More than 300 local paratroopers will spend the next six months based in the volatile Helmand Province.

The soldiers are among the last of the 2,500 troops to be posted from the garrison for the summer, all from different regiments in 16 Air Assault Brigade.

Yesterday a group from 2 Para were preparing to leave Colchester and travel to Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to begin their journey to Afghanistan.

Following some farewell drinks in Colchester on Tuesday night, the men spent a final few hours with their loved ones before setting off at midnight.

The goodbye was particularly poignant for Private Daniel Burgess as his wife Kelly, 21, is expecting their first child in three weeks time.

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The couple know they are having a boy, who they plan to call Bayley, and the birth will be filmed for Pte Burgess to watch later but he admitted he was sorry to be missing the real thing.

“I have got the first choice of R and R (two weeks at home) which I want to take in July because that is about halfway through and will break things down a bit,” said the 22-year-old.

“I am quite anxious to get out there and I am nervous but I wouldn't say I am scared - but then in a couple of weeks' time when I am getting shot at I might say differently, you don't know how you are going to feel.”

He was philosophical about the possibility of being killed or seriously injured, saying: “There might be a bullet with my name on it but that is the risk that I take.”

Private Ben Yuill said he was looking forward to finally putting his training into practice after spending “far too much time in Colchester”.

The 25-year-old, originally from Cambridgeshire, has been deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 as well as Iraq twice and Northern Ireland once.

“There isn't anything I will particularly miss - you just forget everything and concentrate on doing your job,” said Pte Yuill.

Lance Corporal Adam Croucher was saying goodbye to his eight-week-old son, Oliver, as well as five-year-old Tybias and wife Jacqueline, 23.

“It is difficult but it would be even worse if he was a bit older as he is too little to know who I am at the moment,” he said.

“I am very excited - I just want to get out there and do what I have been training to do for the last 18 months.”

Officer in charge of the men, Major Mike Shervington, is also a dad-to-be with his wife Elizabeth, 39, due to given birth in six weeks time.

He said: “There is some sadness (about missing the birth) but this is what I do and my wife understands that she is married to the Army as much as me.

“Any soldiers who joins the Parachute Regiment knows he joins for one reason which is to do what we are about to go and do. It does not get any better.”

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