Last Day – Part One

Our last day in Afghanistan brought a range of emotions. The day started off as they all do – cheese omelette, toast, and tea. It was a sunny morning, and the dust wasn’t too bad. The team all got together at our office at 0830, and started to plan the next phases of the project.

At 1100 we were at the Canadian Embassy, where we had a debriefing meeting with the CIDA officials responsible for our project. The Canadian International Development Agency is based in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa, but has representatives in most Canadian embassies located in countries where development projects are taking place.

We had done the normal type of presentation and had answered questions when there was a cough from behind me. Someone said, “Tim, sorry, I forgot to tell you, our military attaché would like to meet you”. I turned around and saw a Canadian colonel standing there, holding a blue folder.

We shook hands and I discovered a remarkable story. In fact, two stories. The Colonel had wanted to meet me because his son had been in the same class as Nichola at the Royal Military College in Kingston. Indeed, he had deployed to Kandahar as well, arriving at the base on 16 May 2006. He had therefore been there the next day when they brought her back from the battlefield, and had taken part in her ramp ceremony. The Colonel wanted me to know how much Nichola had been grieved.

He then told me the second story. In Kabul there is a famous landmark called The British Cemetery. I had driven past it a couple of times, on my way to somewhere or another, but we had never had the time to stop. It has been there since the late 1800s, when British troops were involved in a number of campaigns in Afghanistan and the surrounding countries. After arriving in Kabul, the Colonel had heard from one of the Afghan security guards that there was a Canadian memorial within the British Cemetery. A week before I arrived, he asked one of the Embassy drivers to take him there, just to have a look around.

Imagine his surprise when within the grounds he came across a substantial memorial, constructed out of stone and plaster. He showed me some photographs. Imagine my surprise when I saw a list of names, including my daughter’s, hand inscribed on what looked like a metal plate. The Colonel had not known that the memorial was there, and neither had any of the current staff at the Embassy. It looks like it was built towards the end of 2006, and contains the names of the Canadian casualties from 2002 until then.

It is not an official Canadian monument. The Colonel has discovered that it was repaired in 2010, but by whom no one is sure. If anyone who is reading this blog has any information on the Canadian memorial within the British Cemetery of Kabul, I would appreciate hearing the story.

The Colonel told me he is working to have the memorial completed and accredited in an official way. He also told me that on November 11 this year there will be a wreath laying ceremony. I am sorry that I shall not be able to attend, but the next time I come to Kabul I will insist on visiting the British Cemetery.

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Next: Last Day – Part Two