Tag Archives: Afghanistan

The Last One to Die

So often when we feel that we are repeating history, it is almost always, the negative, tragic sort.

As we have already seen, young Dab Furley’s was a life cut tragically short at the age of only nineteen at Miranshah in Waziristan, in 1919.

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If only the powers that be had read about the young man who perished in the middle of nowhere in northern Nigeria in mid-December 1903.
Old Nottinghamian, Lieutenant Cyril Amyatt Wyse Amyatt-Burney was slaughtered by the natives in the village of Deckina in northern Nigeria. He was leading a force sent by British authorities who were keen to restore the King of Ankina to his rightful position, after he had been ousted from the throne by a usurper:

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Lieutenant Amyatt-Burney was:

“…a zealous officer and a young man of promise and energy.”

His body was never found, just a bundle of some of his blood stained clothes, secreted away at the back of a native hut.

In 1937, another Old Boy, Lieutenant E.S.R.France, of the 3/7th Rajput Regiment, was to sacrifice his young life in the Shahur Gorge, on the Manzai-Wana road, on India’s North-West Frontier.

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He was with twenty nine colleagues of the 3/7th Rajput Regiment:

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Lieutenant France, who had left the High School only five years previously, was just twenty three years of age.
Literally as I wrote the stories of these two tragic deaths, though, news came in of the 454th member of the British Armed Forces to be killed in Afghanistan during the present era.  He died in hospital from his wounds on Thursday, July 24th 2015. Why not click on this link, and have a quick look at the 454 young people lost? the 454 families traumatised for ever? the 454 little photographs that mean so much to the people who know what they represent:

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Lance Corporal Michael Campbell, of Colwyn Bay, in north Wales, had been shot while out on patrol with the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Welsh in 2012, more than three years previously.

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Michael, popularly known as Cammy, was a reservist and he died at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. His fellow soldiers said the 32-year-old was an “outstanding soldier” who was always “determined” and “courageous”. Michael had a wife and four children.

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The Ministry of Defence said:

“Lance Corporal Campbell epitomised everything a reservist in 3 R Welsh should be – dedicated, professional and willing to volunteer on operations wherever he was required, a true Welsh warrior. The battalion has lost a charismatic and loyal friend and our thoughts and condolences are with his wife Chrissy and his wider family at this very difficult time.”

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Retired Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Webb said:

“Everyone who served alongside Lance Corporal Campbell will be devastated to learn of his passing.  He joined the battalion during our pre-deployment training and fitted seamlessly into his platoon and company. He was an outstanding soldier and very talented junior commander: skilful, determined, measured and very courageous: he set an excellent example to those around him.”

It is tragic that he has died three years after his initial wounding and the thoughts and prayers of all of us are with his family at this most difficult time.”

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Lieutenant Colonel R Manuel JP – the commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Welsh from December 2012 to June 2015 said:

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Lance Corporal Campbell yesterday. I had known him for a number of years; he was a true reservist with a huge amount of operational experience under his belt. A larger than life character, always upbeat, at the heart of things and looking for the next challenge.”

Major Charlie Carver said Lance Corporal Campbell was “one of life’s true characters. One of the reasons that he was able to fit seamlessly into the company was his keen sense of humour; he excelled at the banter which only soldiers seem to understand.”

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Major D Evans, described him as ‘reliable and professional’, adding:

‘Cammy always brought a smile to your face with his wit and cutting sarcasm and he was always on hand to pass on his experience to the new, and not so new, members of the company.
When I learnt that he had volunteered, yet again, to deploy on what would be his fourth tour, I told him that he had done enough already, his reply was “Well someone has to go and look after you, Boss.
That is what Cammy was truly about. He was a team player, who was committed to serving his country.

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Michael had joined the Army Reserves in April 2002 and was working as a platoon radio operator in October 2011.
He was wounded in the stomach while crossing a road in Helmand Province on April 3rd 2012, having been confronted by “accurate, heavy and sustained enemy fire”.
This enemy fire was returned, with Lance Corporal Campbell and his fellow soldiers vigorously attacking the Taliban firing positions. The Ministry of Defence said in a statement:

“Despite being wounded, Lance Corporal Campbell continued to suppress the enemy, drawing fire on to himself so that the remainder of the multiple could cross an open and exposed area to get into better cover.”

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Michael was evacuated by helicopter first to Camp Bastion and then to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he was readmitted earlier this year. Initially, his recovery had appeared to be going well, as he left hospital to go to Headley Court, the military’s specialist rehabilitation centre for injured servicemen and women. Michael initially had to use a wheelchair but fought back and learned to walk again. All this time, though, he had to return to hospital for a series of operations.
Lance Corporal Campbell had served on a number of other tours, including Iraq, and proved to be a “highly capable soldier”, the Ministry of Defence said.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon described Lance Corporal Campbell as

“proud and professional, a dedicated family man. The tributes of his comrades describe L/Cpl Michael Campbell as a popular and committed soldier devoted to his regiment and his family. Proud and professional, he epitomised the ethos of the Army reservist and he had completed numerous tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is particularly tragic that Michael Campbell should die of wounds after such a period of time and I send my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones at this sad time.”

Sergeant Paul Thomas, who served with Lance Corporal Campbell, told the large crowd at his funeral:

“His knowledge and enthusiasm rubbed off on all around him, especially when guiding the younger members of the platoon. He had truly found his calling in life. He was hugely proud of being a Royal Welshman and even more so of his family. A better man you could not find.”

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I could not have written this article without the information provided on the Internet by the BBC, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror.

And here’s that link that I mentioned at the beginning of the article. This one page of the Internet is a singularly humbling one. It contains the names of every single person who died in Afghanistan.
Every single person in this list had parents, perhaps brothers and sisters, maybe a wife or a husband, perhaps children, certainly friends and acquaintances, perhaps a pet, a hobby, plans to do things, places to visit, a garden, a car, all those things that make life so attractive. But no more.

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“Dab” Furley Part Three

When he left the High School, Percival Henry Biddulph Furley went immediately to sit the Army Entrance Examination. He scored a record 10,000 points, over seven hundred more than the candidate in second place.

Dab was immediately sent out to India. During his short time there, he was described as…

“…specially marked as a man to keep on as a future adjutant…the officers and men loved him.”

And that was it for Second Lieutenant Percival Henry Biddulph Furley.  His game was up. He was mere hours from buying his farm.

The Grim Reaper put his newspaper down, switched off the radio, got to his feet and reached for his trusty scythe:

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Dab Furley was only nineteen years old, but, instead of letting him get used gently to military life in India by posting him to some nice peaceful place, the authorities immediately sent him to the North West Frontier. Most probably, Dab went straight to the recently constructed Miranshah Fort, which the British had built in 1905 to control North Waziristan. There could have been no place more dangerous in the whole of the British Empire:

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Here, operations were continually being carried out against the Wazirs and the Mahsuds along what would nowadays be the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a condensed version of the official record of events:

“Reports had been very persistent at Miranshah of an impending advance by Afghan troops, but these were discounted by a reliable report that these forces were short of transport and supplies, and were adopting a defensive role.
Their leader continued to incite the Wazirs to attack and by May 31st large numbers of tribesmen had assembled. The General Officer Commanding the 67th (Bannu) Brigade decided to disperse these hostile tribesmen. They would also destroy certain villages whose inhabitants were known to have committed offences, and to have participated in attacks on the posts:

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The following day the North Waziristan Militia moved out with 250 men and fought a very successful action. The enemy was put to flight with a loss of about 90 and the towers from where he had been sniping the Miranshah Fort were destroyed. Our casualties were Second Lieutenant PHB Furley, of the 1st/41st Dogras, and two Indian soldiers killed, and five Indian ranks wounded.”

Dab Furley was killed on June 1st 1919. He was just nineteen years old. His family church back in Nottingham expressed their sympathy in the All Saints Church News of August 1919:

“The sympathy of the Church goes out to the bereaved. Percival Henry Biddulph Furley, 72 Cromwell Street, 2nd Lieut. 41st Dogras Indian Army; killed in action at Miranshah, W India, June 1st 1919; age 19; Communicant; educated Nottingham High School, Captain of School and Cricket XI; first in all England Examination for Indian Army. Letters from his CO and Company Commander speak very warmly of his character and soldierly gallantry.”

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The Grim Reaper opened his back door, put his trusty scythe back in the kitchen cupboard alongside the vacuum cleaner, got a beer out of the fridge and went off to watch the football.

By 1919, various wars in this benighted land had already dragged on for the best part of a hundred years. They continued on and off during the 1920s. In the 1930s, the struggle was eagerly taken up by Mirza Ali, the Faqir of Ipi, who intensified violence in the region. Here he is. He reminds me very strongly of somebody, although I can’t quite put my finger on it:

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The interminable cycle of wrongdoing and violence still continues to this very day. In the early 1950s, the Pakistan Air Force carried out operations from Miranshah Airfield and Miranshah Fort against a serious revolt led by another rebellious Faqir.

After 9/11, the “War on Terror” saw almost countless strikes by pilotless drones of the US Central Intelligence Agency, in an attempt to kill militants and terrorists hiding in Miranshah or the surrounding area:

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Dab’s death is commemorated on the Delhi Memorial in India, on Face 3.

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Dab’s remains were actually buried in 1919 in the garden of the local political agent at Miranshah. At the time of writing, though, this grave was unfortunately not one of the many, many thousands to which the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is able to extend its protection, and Dab’s last resting place is nowadays presumably neglected or even lost for ever. It would be a very brave person indeed who tried to place a wreath on it at the present time. Here is Miranshah after a drone strike:

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Talking of the Great War, the school magazine “Highvite” had previously spoken of the keenly felt losses of such talented young men as Harold Ballamy, Charles Boyd, Walter Howard, James Turpin and John Wootton, but this last death of Dab Furley seems to have hit the High School very, very hard. It came after some 300 previous deaths in the Great War but worse than that, at a time when the country was preparing to celebrate peace at last.

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Dab was described as the…

“finest type of English boy…keen, intelligent and thoughtful ; all manly sports… gifted …hard-working, loyal and unselfish…straight and true… unfeignedly modest… of a stainless purity.”

How foolish our nation had been, to throw away the lives of so many hundreds of thousands of its most talented young men in these blood soaked and pointless conflicts.

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What more does Afghanistan want?

A recent report on the financial help given to Afghanistan by the United States was recently presented to Congress. In summary, apparently more money has now been spent on rebuilding Afghanistan than the entire cost of helping Europe to rise from the ruins of the Second World War.

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In 1948-1952, the then US Secretary of State, George Marshall, launched his famous Marshall Plan ($61 billion today) to help reenergise not just one, but sixteen different European countries. Money was even offered to the Soviet Union and its allies, but they refused it.
250px-US-MarshallPlanAid-Logo_svgNearly sixty years later, Aghan corruption and waste have now pushed the price of reconstruction of that one single country to more than $62 billion, thus exceeding the amount the USA provided for Europe under the Marshall plan.
Despite all this cash spent in Afghanistan, the country remains in what appears to be almost permanent and insoluble political crisis and may well remain dependent on hand-outs for years to come, even though British and other foreign troops prepare to withdraw at the end of the year.
Development projects meant to provide Afghans with a sound structural foundation have cost American taxpayers $61.5 billion, but John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Congress that…

“The majority of the projects seen were hampered by poor planning, shoddy construction, mechanical failures and inadequate oversight. Billions were spent on ill-fated agricultural and infrastructure projects that failed to take into account Afghanistan’s culture. More than £2 billion was spent on improving the Afghan police, yet tens of thousands of ghost officers collect their pay, but never turn up for work. Nearly half of the 747,000 firearms provided for Afghan security forces at a cost of £372 million have vanished. The annual cost of maintaining Afghans police and military is likely to be double what the country collects in tax revenue.”

Well, poor old Afghanistan.
What more help do they need?
What else do we have to give them?
Have we not given enough?

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The whole situation is so very reminiscent of a previous involvement of the USA in Asia, now almost fifty years ago. This time, the American forces are helped by their many allies, but the situation is not so very different. They are fighting a frequently invisible foe, on behalf of people who may well not be worth fighting for.

It may not quite be a case of “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” but so often it seems like that…

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