Surviving Helmand (2021)


Introduction

Inspiring documentary on the war in Afghanistan told through emotional testimonies of three Welsh soldiers and a bereaved mother.

Outline

Four inspirational people deeply affected by the conflict in Afghanistan – two soldiers who overcame the deep psychological impact of their experiences, one who lost a leg, and a bereaved, campaigning mother – tell their extraordinary stories of anguish, despair and recovery, reveal how they coped with the consequences and have strived to help others. This is their story of surviving Helmand.

At the height of the war in 2009 and 2010, the biggest threat to the soldiers were Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) – increasingly sophisticated and devastating homemade bombs planted by the Taliban. Activated by pressure from above or a command wire, they became the single largest cause of fatalities and injuries, and an effective psychological terror weapon.

Geraint (Gez) Jones from Wrexham joined the Royal Welsh Regiment looking for adventure. But this was not what he had signed up for. The IEDs were hard to detect and a constant threat. Gez saw what they could do to soldiers and their families. When the war was over, he felt like a failure and started drinking and using drugs. Geraint recovered after he left the army, focusing on physical exercise and his love of the outdoors, wrote a best-selling book based on his experiences and has forged a successful career as a podcaster and writer of historical fiction.

Steve Owen from Cardigan was another who signed up looking for adventure. But in 2010, Steve’s Jackal vehicle hit an IED. He ended up having his leg amputated as a result of chronic pain from his injuries. This would be the beginning of a new life for Steve and his family. Just four months after his amputation, Steve succeeded in completing a 26-mile sponsored walk. Now with three children and a happy marriage, he is embarking on an even more ambitious marathon to raise funds for Woody’s Lodge, a charity that supports veterans of the armed forces and emergency services, where he works as project manager.

Most challenging of all for families back home was the loss of a loved one. Sarah Adams from Cwmbran was proud when her young son James Prosser joined the army. James drove a Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle at the height of the IED attacks, and in September 2009, the news that Sarah feared most arrived one morning. An IED had blown up the Warrior James was driving, and he had died from his injuries. With the war still raging, James’s mother felt she needed to go to Camp Bastion, where James had died, to get some resolution of her grief. Sarah flew to Camp Bastion in June 2012, three years after her son’s death there.

Hugh Keir from the village of Crynant near Neath was a sniper in the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment. He was trapped in the siege of Musa Qala and at the mercy of daily Taliban bombardments. Like many veterans, it took years for Hugh to get help for the deep psychological impact of his experiences. As part of his recovery, Hugh started a podcast and a rugby team – the FuBars – to help others.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Steve Humphries.
  • Producer(s):
    • Steve Humphries.
    • Andy Attenburrow.
  • Production:
    • BBC.
  • Distributor(s):
    • BBC.
  • Release Date: 09 November 2021.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Running Time: 59 minutes.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

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