Armed Forces

On Saturday I visited the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum for an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

It always fills me with pride to visit the museum because my grandfather was one of 'The Few'.  He commanded 145 Squadron at Tangmere and on 8 August 1940 - the day which became acknowledged as the first of the Battle of Britain - he is said to have fired the opening shots.

But there was another reason to remember the bravery of those pilots who flew against the Luftwaffe in 1940.  Saturday was also Armed Forces Day.

Here in Sussex we had a busy programme of events over the weekend to acknowledge the sacrifices, past and present, of our armed forces.

Today, of course, our forces are fighting a war in Afghanistan and we have a large contingent of 10,000 troops in the country, of whom 8,000 are based in Helmand.

It's a very tough and dangerous job.  Last week the number of UK servicemen and women killed since the war began in October 2001 reached 300.  And thousands more have been injured.

As the Prime Minister said last week, the 300th death is no more or less tragic than the 299 that came before.  For every soldier who dies there is a family that will suffer the enormous pain and grief of losing a loved one.

But for the rest of us, it's a moment to reflect on the sacrifice that our brave men and women are making in a foreign country thousands of miles from home.

I for one believe it is right that our troops are there.  They are making our country and the world a safer place by denying terrorists a base from which to launch attacks on the UK and its allies.

But I don't want our troops to be in Afghanistan for a moment longer than they have to.  So I hope that the current allied strategy will work and that, in time, Afghan forces will be able to assume responsibility for their own security.

In the meantime, it's important that we back our troops and let them know how proud we are.

Christopher N Howarth