The Afghanistan War in the view of a Harleston soldier

Coporal Paul Trudgill, a 29-year-old soldier from Harleston, pictured alongside his Foxhound vehicle in Afghanistan.
Coporal Paul Trudgill, a 29-year-old soldier from Harleston, pictured alongside his Foxhound vehicle in Afghanistan.

The conflicts of years gone by have had our attention this year to such a great extent that many might have not realised that, back here in the present, Britain’s involvement in the longest, most drawn-out conflict of the modern era is at long last coming to a close.

Since the War in Afghanistan began shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, it has affected thousands of lives, and at times, has felt like this dragged-out chapter in history would never end.

However, the British armed forces are finally in the process of withdrawing their presence and completing the handover to the Afghan National Army, with the last wave of British troops landing in the country in the past week.

At the centre of the monumental operation to withdraw from this 13-year struggle is Corporal Paul Trudgill, 29, who until seven years ago had lived his entire life in the peaceful town of Harleston.

Now commencing his third tour of duty to Afghanistan, Paul’s underlying feeling is that the situation in Afghanistan has changed dramatically even in just the last two years - and while the stability of the country is by no means immediately assured, he claims the changes have been positive.

“Things have changed a whole lot since my first tour. Now everything is completely different,” said Cpl. Trudgill.

“It’s all been scaled back - the bastions are a lot smaller, everything is getting smaller.

“The Afghan army is taking more of a lead. It’s definitely much better than it used to be.”

Formerly a pupil at Harleston Primary School and Archbishop Sancroft High School, he joined the army back in 2007 when he was 22 years old.

After 14 weeks of basic training, he was recruited to the 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards, a leading regiment in the Royal Armoured Corps, in which he trained to operate light armoured tanks.

At the time of his first tour in 2008, the war was still in its ascendancy.

The number of soldiers, both British and American, deployed to Afghanistan was increasing, and the Taliban insurgents were very much on the offensive.

Cpl. Trudgill, now the father of two young boys aged three and ten months, was serving as a driver for the Welsh Cavalry, and he described it as a stressful time.

“My first couple of tours were definitely very hectic.

“Back then, we (the British Army) were the ones taking the lead. There was a lot of fighting and it was very busy for us.

“We (the regiment) lost a few good blokes on the first tour.”

The fighting was a significant part of his second tour in 2012 as well, this time with him operating as the gunner on a tank.

Although the war in Afghanistan no longer dominates the headlines like it did around a decade ago, conflict in the region has remained prevalent, with the total count for fallen British soldiers last clocking in at 453 since the war broke out.

Right now though, the armed forces are overseeing a period of transition.

They are about to undergo the enormous task of helping to prepare Afghanistan security forces for their ongoing war effort, while simultaneously packing up Camp Bastion, the British military base that at its peak housed 28,000 personnel.

For Paul, the operation has seen a big change in his duties, After attaining the rank of corporal in October 2013, he now commands a Foxhound unit and works as part of the Brigade Advisory Team, or BAT, with the aim to “withdraw in good order and leave everything in good stead.”

“I think it is going as well as could be expected,” he said.

“Everything has gone to plan so far.”

Although Cpl. Trudgill plans to move back to Norfolk from his current home in Germany to be closer to his family, he says he is committed to continuing with the army after his tour is finished.

Cpl. Trudgill said it was good that Britain could now take a hands-off approach: “It’s good that the Afghan army is taking the lead. It’s an Afghan problem, so now it is an Afghan solution, rather than us forcing ourselves on the situation.”