Remembrance Sunday: Tribute To Helmand Soldier

Lucy Cotter and Richard Suchet
Remembrance Sunday: Tribute To Helmand Soldier

For the families of those killed in war, Remembrance Sunday can be a day of profound grief.

While the nation - and the Commonwealth - expresses its gratitude to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, the bereaved are reminded of their own suffering and loss.

Some 53 British servicemen and women have been killed in Afghanistan in the past 12 months and 437 have died there since operations began in 2001.

Margaret Evison's son Mark died in Helmand Province in 2009.

A lieutenant in the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, he was considered one of the finest officers of his generation.

He died aged just 26 after being shot in the shoulder while leading a patrol in Helmand.

Margaret's book Death Of A Soldier describes the aftermath - from the time she was told her son had been injured, up until after his inquest.

It is an incredibly moving account which articulates the loss of a child, and is deeply thought-provoking.

But it also asks important questions about the circumstances surrounding Lt Evison's death, about the Army and the war in Afghanistan.

Ms Evison said: "It's a journey through despair, but also a tale of surprises, sometimes magical ... to pay my respects to a young man who commanded such love and respect in his short life."

Lt Evison was clearly a remarkable man, who achieved a great deal and inspired those who knew him.

Nicknamed 007, he was idolised by his men and was destined for a very bright future in the Army he loved so much.

Brigadier Tim Radford, heading the 19th Brigade in Afghanistan at the time, wrote: "He was charming, utterly focused, thoughtful and he left an indelible stamp.

"I know his soldiers adored him and he was held in such high esteem by them. Mark was described by his solders as having 'a face that was sculpted by angels'. In 25 years in the army, I have never heard soldiers speak with such affection about one of their officers."

The book brings Lt Evison to life through his mother's words, but also uses his own.

He wrote a diary in Afghanistan until a few days before he died which is included, along with extracts from the many letters written to the family from people who knew Lt Evison.

As well as being a very personal story about loss, the book illustrates the heroics of the people involved in trying to save Lt Evison, but also questions whether his death could have been avoided.

Ms Evison battled with the Ministry of Defence and found evidence that there was a lack of resources, poor radio equipment, and a delay in the helicopter sent to rescue Lt Evison which had an impact on his care.

She not only questions the Army's deficiencies, but the legitimacy of the campaign in Afghanistan.

However, the book ends on a very positive note, describing The Mark Evison Foundation , which was set up shortly after his death to inspire young people and help them develop their potential.

"We wanted the foundation to reflect Mark's unusual capacity to be a life-enhancer," she wrote. "That became its strap line 'Bring out the best in you'."

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