News story

Recognising the service and sacrifice of the armed forces

In 13 years of operations in Afghanistan more than 150,000 UK military personnel have deployed as part of the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

4 RIFLES parade at Bulford in 2009 to receive their Afghanistan Operational Service Medals [Picture: Sergeant Dan Harmer RLC, Crown copyright]
4 RIFLES parade at Bulford in 2009 to receive their Afghanistan Operational Service Medals

Every tour saw our personnel facing remarkable challenges as they worked to bring Afghanistan closer to managing its own security.

Regular and reserve troops from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force, and civilian colleagues, worked in unison alongside their coalition partners.

Not just on the frontline of fighting, but in crucial support roles such as engineering, logistics, communications and maintenance.

Throughout the conflict the support of the public back home has been much appreciated by those who have served.

At homecoming parades, on Armed Forces Day, and through the huge amount donated to military charities, the public has demonstrated their support to the armed forces throughout the campaign.

Soldiers of 1st Battalion The Scots Guards delivering Christmas mail
Soldiers of 1st Battalion The Scots Guards delivering Christmas mail in Afghanistan December 2012 [Picture: Corporal Dek Traylor RAF, Crown copyright]

Personnel and their families and friends have had to make great sacrifices during deployments lasting around 6 months – losing time with each other, missing births, birthdays, and Christmases.

Welfare support kept families in touch through free phone calls, skype and e-blueys, and British Forces Post Office ensured the parcels and letters got through to troops even at the most remote bases.

Service

The 13 years of conflict in Afghanistan have seen many examples of selfless acts of courage and bravery.

To date more than 1,650 awards for Gallantry and Meritorious Service have been presented to regular and reserve servicemen and women through the UK honours and awards system.

This includes 2 Victoria Crosses, the highest honour for bravery, awarded to British soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2013, 4 George Crosses, 40 Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses and 521 personnel mentioned in dispatches.

Infographic on military medals

Sacrifice

Tragically 453 men and women died in this conflict, and Remembrance Sunday has been an important time of reflection and mourning throughout the campaign for both the military in Afghanistan, and for families at home.

The roll of honour identifies those who have sacrificed their lives, and their names are engraved on the striking Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, as well as reflected locally on memorials at military bases.

The memorial wall built by UK military personnel at Camp Bastion is being transported back to the arboretum, for families and friends to visit.

Last post played in Camp Bastion

A further 616 have sustained very serious injuries that have significantly changed their lives. Over 7,000 UK military and civilian personnel admitted to the field hospital in Afghanistan of whom 2,188 were wounded in action.

Recovery

Through the course of the conflict huge medical advances have been achieved in lifesaving care, the rehabilitation from injury, and support for mental health.

The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, sees a partnership between the NHS and Defence Medical Services that support those medically evacuated from theatre.

The Defence Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court has a dedicated team of military and civilian experts, ranging from specialist medical officers and physiotherapists, to speech and language therapists and fitness instructors.

Personal Recovery Centres around the country also help Service personnel through the long process of recovery, working in partnership with military charities including the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes and SSAFA.

A soldier is guided in the use of his 3 prosthetic limbs at Headley Court
A soldier is guided in the use of his 3 prosthetic limbs at Headley Court [Picture: Petty Officer Airman (Photographer) Colin Foord, Crown Copyright]

The understanding of the mental health impact has also grown.

As well as non-medical personnel trained to spot the subtle signs of mental distress and illness in their colleagues on the ground in Afghanistan, skilled and experienced uniformed mental health nurses also deployed on operations to provide the necessary care and treatment as early as possible.

16 military Departments of Community Mental Health support personnel in the UK, and MOD works closely with the NHS and a number of charities to support personnel and veterans longer term.

Thanks to the achievements and sacrifices made by the men and women our of armed forces, and the civilians who have supported them, combat operations are now over in Afghanistan.

Our commitment to the country continues, continuing to build security through mentoring the Afghan National Security Forces at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul.

Published 30 October 2014