Pic­ture di­ary from the Afghanistan front line

Sol­dier’s im­ages in new book

Halifax Courier - - News - By Brian Coates

brian.coates@hal­i­fax­courier.co.uk A HAL­I­FAX sol­dier spent four months in Afghanistan as a front line pho­tog­ra­pher cov­er­ing the Para­chute Reg­i­ment.

Craig Allen kept a di­ary through­out record­ing the daily grind with 2 and 3 Para in op­er­a­tions against the Tal­iban.

The re­sult is his book “With The Paras In Hel­mand - A Pho­to­graphic Di­ary.”

Mr Allen is full of ad­mi­ra­tion for the young sol­diers and the en­durance of civil­ians.

“The peo­ple treat fight­ing like bad weather, they go in­side and then come out again drink­ing their tea,” he said.

His book aimed to tell the sol­diers’ story sen­si­tively.

“There is ten­sion. It would be dif­fi­cult record­ing peo­ple get­ting hurt with­out of­fend­ing fam­i­lies,” said Mr Allen.

“You hear a lot of talk about heroes but sol­diers do not see them­selves as heroes but pro­fes­sional sol­diers.”

Af­ter film­ing Paras in the field Mr Allen of­ten found him­self an hour later in a com­pound watch­ing the sol­diers re­lax­ing.

“Many are only 19 or 20 and very pro­fes­sional but in the com­pound you re­alise how young they are.”

Mr Allen, 50, at­tended the for­mer Haugh Shaw and Cross­ley and Porter schools in Hal­i­fax and has al­ways been in­ter­ested in pho­tog­ra­phy.

He joined the Para­chute Reg­i­ment and had a 22-year ca­reer with the reg­u­lar army serv­ing in North­ern Ire­land (five tours), Bos­nia, Nor­way, Cyprus, Kenya and the U.S.

He left in 2001 with the rank of Colour Sergeant and promptly joined 4 Para - the re­serve bat­tal­ion and has been mo­bilised twice in re­cent years to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Allen car­ried a cam­era on op­er­a­tions and dur­ing 2003 he recorded the se­cur­ing of the Bri­tish Em­bassy in Bagh­dad with 1 Para. He was thrilled with the op­por­tu­nity to record the Paras in Afghanistan.

“I hope my book pays fit­ting tribute to the sol­diers at the sharp end of this bit­ter con­flict,” said Mr Allen, who now lives in Edinburgh with his wife Cathy.

His par­ents Joan and Ed­die Longbottom live at Wil­low­field, Pye Nest, and sis­ter Gil­lian Davies, at Sav­ile Park.

He is now work­ing on a sec­ond book, a novel, set in wartime Italy and re­mains with 4 Para as the Bat­tal­ion Pho­tog­ra­pher which he com­bines with work as a free­lance.

“With The Paras In Hel­mand” costs £15.41 on Ama­zon and is also sold by W. H. Smith and Tesco.

Front line: Craig Allen in Hel­mand, and left, the cover of his book

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