The hallmark of the Royal Anglians’ tour was offensive spirit. Supported by air strikes, artillery, mortars, Scimitars, tracked troop carriers and Javelin missiles; often resupplied by heavy parachute drop; the platoons sniped, blasted, machine-gunned, grenaded and bayoneted their way across the desert and through the jungle-like Green Zone. In the words of the Task Force Commander, Brigadier John Lorrimer, ‘The Royal Anglians carried out jungle, desert, FIBUA, armoured infantry and airmobile operations – sometimes all in the same day.’

For the Taliban, the Green Zone had become a safe haven. Carrying battle-loads of up to ninety pounds, often coming under heavy fire, Royal Anglian soldiers sweated their way across long distances in tough terrain and searing heat, by day and by night – taking the fight to the enemy. The first British military unit to do so, the Royal Anglians frequently attacked into the Green Zone and stayed there, dominating the enemy’s home ground and preventing him from intimidating and killing local people.

That was the ultimate purpose of the Royal Anglians’ combat operations: to protect the civilian population; to gain their confidence; to permit reconstruction; to extend the writ of the Kabul government; and to enable the combat development of the Afghan National Army.

Nowhere was the Royal Anglians’ success better illustrated than in the town of Sangin. In the words of President Karzai: ‘Lose Sangin and you lose Afghanistan.’ Under siege for many months, the most important urban centre in the district had become a virtual ghost town when the Battalion arrived. By the time they departed, most of the people had returned and the Sangin market, critical to trade and prosperity for miles around, had become a teeming, flourishing centre of business: busier and more vibrant than anyone had known in years.

And further north, around the kajaki Dam, Royal Anglian companies supported by air, mortars and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems fired from fifty kilometres away, fought for months to drive back the Taliban and prevent their interference with the strategically important hydroelectric plant. Less than a year after the battalion left Helmand, the vital third generator was brought in by road, an achievement that will enable the supply of electric power to most of Helmand and Kandahar provinces.