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on 27 May 2013
Helmond: Diaries of Front Line Soldiers - Simon Weston

Simon Weston - a survivor of the Falklands War, has written the introduction to this extraordinary book. His notes help one to get a better picture of how and why the war in Afghanistan is being fought. Without it, going straight into the diaries of John Thornton, The OC, C Company, Iain Sutherland, Chris Fletcher, Rev. Stuart Hallam and then finally the diary of Ian Thornton (John's brother) would have been difficult to fully understand, especially if like me, you have no military background.

The diaries are so personal, so intimate; you can feel the writer's emotions pouring through their words. Reading John's words and then seeing them suddenly stop just after speaking to his mother and brother just days before he was killed in 2008 were particularly poignant.

All the other diaries tie in with this tragedy until we get to Ian Thornton's diaries written when he went to Afghanistan on 11 September 2011. It's so interesting to see how he found the area where John and other members of the UK forces had fought and some tragically died trying so hard to restore some kind of peace to this very complex country. I think what struck me the most about Ian's diaries was the fear that he would lose his life there and would leave his parents to grieve for not just John but also for him. It must have taken so much courage for the family to see him going back to the same area, but also the reward of finding that the place had found some calm and what soldiers had lost lives and limbs for was actually changing the face of Afghanistan to a more manageable place.

Thank you Linda, Pete & Ian and the other diarists for allowing us to share in these very private and emotional diaries. Losing John was a terrible tragedy, yet look what's been achieved in his name: a Trust Foundation for young people to achieve their dreams (through grants). This trust has helped so many young people already and will continue to do so, all in the name of a very brave soldier named John Thornton.
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on 18 November 2013
This is an amazing account of what it is really like . I felt the loss of Lieutenant John Thornton, it was done poignantly and with respect to the family. With each individual diary I felt I was involved and experiencing events through their eyes . The adrenalin rush of success and the gut wrenching loss of a trusted friend and respected colleague .
Lieutenant Ian Thornton's, John's older brother gave a moving, honest, and brave account. His experience is more recent.Laced with humour, and irony it is still clear that Afganistan is still a dangerous and unpredictable environment . Filled with the unknown and the unexpected .
Brave young men all.

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on 5 June 2013
I'm not a massive reader but had to buy this after hearing all about it.

The way in which this book is written is so amazing and makes you feel like you're getting an insight into what actually happens, rather than what the media allow you to see.

If you're reading this then you must be somewhat interested in the book, if that's the case then just buy it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
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on 9 October 2013
A very enlightening book that gives you the personal insights of two tours of Afghanistan. The simplicity of the book structure lends to the reality of the situation being detailed in the diary entries. You come to a sudden halt on the diary of John Thornton, and are slapped in the face with simple entry that he and Marine David Marsh died on 30th March 2008. The diaries entries of John's friends give you their view of the 'jigsaw' of military campaigns who are involved in the same operations, just in different roles. The emotional trauma of losing a close friend and colleague is evident, and yet has to be dusted down and put away, to ensure they remain professional for the remainder of the tour.

To then be able to read the diary of Ian Thornton, who followed in his late brother's footsteps on his own tour of Afghanistan allows you to see the improvements that have been made. His first half of his deployment being in the relatively peaceful area of Nad e ali, thanks to the protection offered by local and international forces and reveals the mundane part of peacekeeping duties, essential as they are. The second half of his tour takes him to the 'new' frontline and being exposed to surreal environments of watching your enemy prepare for an attack in front of your eyes, but having to fulfil your legal obligations of meeting the criteria of being under imminent threat of death, before being allowed to engage. The diary reveals his own concerns for his personal well-being and alleviating his family's worries of potentially losing another child.

An emotional read and a great insight to the duty of care Ian Thornton had towards his men and his family, and all the pressures of responsibility that brings. Thanks for being my son's 'Boss', and bringing your men home safely.

Most importantly, I remember those that lost their lives and those that were injured in serving their country.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.
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VINE VOICEon 1 July 2013
If you have ever wondered what goes through the mind of a front line soldier, then I this book is for you. This a very emotional account done in diary form, of what a soldier thinks and experiences in the front line. Highly recommended reading.
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on 14 July 2013
A true insight into the lives and activities of those serving in Helmand. Short diary entries make it the perfect pickup when you have a few spare minutes, and gripping enough to make you want to read it cover to cover
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on 11 July 2013
i enjoyed from start to finish once i started i could not put the book down it was well presented and very interesting made me feel very proud of our boys and girls in our forces
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on 1 October 2013
I was gripped with enthusiasm and anticipation awaiting the following days entry.
It brought home to me just how proud we should be of our Armed Forces, the book was well written,considering these guys were under daily pressure and severe danger,Cheerfulness in the face of adversity is one of the Royal Marines ethos and it showed.
I shed a few tears but no shame.Paddy Ashdowns tribute says everything---A must read book !
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on 22 July 2013
Im not too sure enjoyed is the best word when talking about reading a book that is a result of war stories, but I honestly did! A great insight in to what different encounters you can have on the same tour! Take time to read this and continue to support all our armed forces and think about what they go through every day to ensure that we can continue with our freedom and do everything we want to!
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