Ipswich soldier tells of determination

IPSWICH politician turned soldier Alasdair Ross today told how the bloodiest 24 hours for British troops in Afghanistan has done nothing to dampen his determination to help the country.

IPSWICH politician turned soldier Alasdair Ross today told how the bloodiest 24 hours for British troops in Afghanistan has done nothing to dampen his determination to help the country.

Mr Ross, a councillor for Rushmere ward on the borough, was called out of retirement from the army to return as a sergeant with 2nd Battalion The Rifles and head off on a tour of duty to Afghanistan.

Since his arrival at the war zone earlier this year, his regiment has been hit badly, most recently with the deaths of five troops in two separate blasts on the same patrol near Sangin on Friday.

In an e-mail to the Star from the front line he spoke poignantly about his feelings about the fatalities, which have been close to home.

He said: “Our commanding officer, Lt Col Rob Thompson said after the deaths of five brave Rifleman, 'there will be no turning- the work is too important.'

“So we remembered our fallen comrades, and the Bugle Major sounded the advance and it could be heard right across the Helmand Valley as the sun slipped behind the ridge. We will not turn and we will carry on as we believe in this just cause.

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“I would like to thank all the people of Ipswich for their support of our troops.”

Eight troops died in the 24-hour period, bringing the total killed in the country since 2001 to 184, surpassing the death toll of 179 in Iraq. 15 soldiers have now died in Afghanistan in the last 10 days.

Downing Street has since denied claims from the Opposition that British troops who are serving in Afghanistan are under-equipped.

Mr Ross, of Lonsdale Close, believes the British army has brought several improvements to the country and was disappointed to see that a school built for the local people remains empty due to the Taliban threat.

He added: “While on patrol we were invited into a compound by a Pashtu family. As is the Pashtu custom, we were soon served a pot of tea and a bowl of sweets.

“It is such a disappointment that the school built with British government money is empty after the Taliban has threatened to kill anyone who sends their children through its doors. These children have a thirst for knowledge and the Taliban fear that more than anything.”

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