Sunderland soldier’s grief at comrades’ death in Afghanistan

Captain Chris Armstrong
Captain Chris Armstrong
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A MARINE whose battle-scarred company has suffered a double tragedy in Afghanistan says “real progress” is being made in the fight against the Taliban.

Captain Chris Armstrong, who is based in Helmand Province with 42 Commando Royal Marines, said that despite continued hostilities and casualties the armed forces were winning their fight to bring peace back to the war-torn country.

In recent weeks, his company has lost two of its troops in ambushes.

Sergeant Barry Weston, 40, from Reading, was killed by a road-side bomb while leading a patrol near the village of Sukmanda in southern Nahr-e Saraj district, and David Fairbrother, 24, from Blackburn, Lancashire, was shot dead by insurgents while supporting the Afghan National Army.

But despite the setbacks, Cpt Armstrong, said he was confident his six-month-tour-of-duty with “Kilo” Company had made a difference.

The Sunderland-born marine, who is due to return home next month, said: “It has been a good tour although we have suffered losses, which has been extremely difficult.

“It has been heart-warming to see the progress we have made and the insurgency weakened.”

The 24-year-old former pupil at the city’s Monkwearmouth Comprehensive School and St Aidan’s Sixth Form later studied law at Durham University before joining the military.

Cpt Armstrong has served with the Marines for three-and-a half-years and is currently working as an intelligence officer on his first tour of Afghanistan.  

“It has been a real challenge, dealing with lots of intelligence information coming in every day combined with the cultural complexities of Afghanistan,” he said.

He said life in Patrol Base 5, in Nar-e Saraj, had been somewhat basic, with his company inspired to create their “own luxury items” including water supply for showers, a gym and furniture made from wiring and wooden pallets.

But Cpt Armstrong said he is looking forward to seeing his mum, dad and brother, who now live near Brancepeth, County Durham.

“I am used to uncomfortable conditions, being out on the ground on operations most of the time, but I am looking forward to going home and seeing my family,” said Cpt Armstrong.

“I will probably go on holiday when I get back and do absolutely nothing as we have been working 16 hours a day, seven days a week here.”

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