The heartbroken families of soldiers from the Fylde coast who fought and died in the Afghanistan conflict today paid emotional tribute to their loved ones – but admitted they will never know if their sons died in vain.
Speaking after a poignant ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral in London to mark the end of British combat operations in the country yesterday, the parents of two soldiers told of their frustration and heartache at the end of the 13-year conflict.
Trooper Christopher Whiteside, 20, Fusilier Sam Flint-Broughton, 21, Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33 and marine Darren Smith, 27, all died in the conflict.
Fusilier Flint Broughton’s heartbroken father David Broughton said: “Not one thing has changed, just loss of life. There is nothing happening, we have not helped anyone.”
Dave Broughton, the father of Fusilier Sam Flint-Broughton, who lost his life in the country in 2013, said: “the Taliban have moved into towns and are now working their way to Kabul. I would hate to say our son died in vain but Genghis Khan, the Russians - they never conquered Afghanistan.
“Not one thing has changed - just loss of life. There is nothing happening, we have not helped anyone.”Fusilier Sam Flint-Broughton was one of three soldiers who died when the armoured vehicle he was travelling in was hit by an improvised explosive device in April 2013.
The 21-year-old, from Poulton, had joined the Army in November 2011 and was on his first overseas deployment.
His father said: “From what I have seen they have shown great respect to line the streets of London.
“I have had the news channel on all day. It is very poignant.
“The people who stood out shows all the soldiers who fought will not be forgotten for what they did for their country.
“But the Taliban have moved into towns and are now working their way to Kabul. I would hate to say our son died in vain but Genghis Khan, the Russians – they never conquered Afghanistan.
“Not one thing has changed, just loss of life. There is nothing happening, we have not helped anyone. If anything we have maybe made it worse.
“People might have been under the Taliban rule before but they knew where they stood – now they do not.”
Christopher Whiteside, a 20-year-old from South Shore, was a Trooper in the Light Dragoons in Afghanistan.
In July 2009, Christopher was on foot patrol in Helmand Province when he was killed by an improvised explosive device. The bomb threw him into a stream, where he drowned.
Six years on, Christopher’s mother, Diane Whiteside, spoke to The Gazette after yesterday’s ceremony.
She said: “The service was emotional but it was helping put something to rest in the respect of all the boys and girls who lost their lives.
“It was nice and very honourable. As far as Afghanistan is concerned I do look at it this way – if Chris was not killed in Afghanistan it would probably have been another war.
“He was a soldier, it was his job. He knew the risks. He knew somebody might not come back and he knew the risks. Being young they think it won’t happen to them. He always said he would rather die in the battlefield than crossing the road.
“It has brought it all back today and I am very proud to wear his medals.
“As far as Afghanistan is concerned it is not finished.
“But as a mum of Chris it is one of those things.
“It leaves you bare. It was especially tough when you see his regiment and friends who are married and have children. It affects me that way.
“It is not finished. If it had there would be a reason why the boys died. When all is said and done it is very, very unfair.”
The Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron attended yesterday’s service which included a procession through London and a fly past.
UK forces were part of a US-led coalition which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the ruling Taliban in 2001, following the 9/11 attacks in America.
At the peak of the 13-year campaign the UK military had 9,500 troops and 137 bases in Afghanistan.
Camp Bastion, in Helmand Province, was the UK troops’ main Afghan base.
At the time it opened, the UK said its forces would be there to protect reconstruction of the country, but soldiers soon got caught up in the struggle against the Taliban – a struggle which claimed the lives of hundreds of soldiers, including Darren Smith and Nigel Coupe.
Marine Smith, from Fleetwood, joined X-ray Company of 45 Commando in July 2008 after completing Royal Marines Commando Recruit Training.
The loving father, who left behind his partner Kelly Parker and young daughter Keira to fight in the country, was ambushed by Taliban rebels in Afghanistan on February 14, 2009.
He was shot during the exchange and died en route to an Army hospital.
Natalie Coupe lost her husband Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33, when he died alongside five of his comrades after the
armoured vehicle they were travelling in was destroyed by a Taliban bomb in Afghanistan.
Their daughters Ella and Jasmine were four and two when their father was killed in March 2012.