Sunday 20 August 2017

Martina Devlin: The human toll behind grim savagery of war

British army sapper William Blanchard who was shot dead in Afghanistan last Saturday when he went to disarm a suspect device
British army sapper William Blanchard who was shot dead in Afghanistan last Saturday when he went to disarm a suspect device
Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

A MEMBER of my wider family was shot dead in Afghanistan a few days ago, just six weeks into his first overseas tour of duty. He was part of a bomb-disposal unit, and was picked off at the scene of a suspect device.

William Blanchard was my brother-in-law's brother, an understated, gentlemanly Englishman. I always struggled to picture this well-educated, soft-spoken individual -- born in Swaziland, where his father worked as a missionary and biology teacher -- in military fatigues, but he had a taste for the outdoors and longed for adventure.

In a previous age, he might have become an explorer. Instead, he worked as a radiation protection officer and later joined the Territorial Army, Britain's part-time reserve force.

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