Picture diary from the Afghanistan front line

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A HALIFAX soldier spent four months in Afghanistan as a front line photographer covering the Parachute Regiment.

Craig Allen kept a diary throughout recording the daily grind with 2 and 3 Para in operations against the Taliban.

The result is his book “With The Paras In Helmand - A Photographic Diary.”

Mr Allen is full of admiration for the young soldiers and the endurance of civilians.

“The people treat fighting like bad weather, they go inside and then come out again drinking their tea,” he said.

His book aimed to tell the soldiers’ story sensitively.

“There is tension. It would be difficult recording people getting hurt without offending families,” said Mr Allen.

“You hear a lot of talk about heroes but soldiers do not see themselves as heroes but professional soldiers.”

After filming Paras in the field Mr Allen often found himself an hour later in a compound watching the soldiers relaxing.

“Many are only 19 or 20 and very professional but in the compound you realise how young they are.”

Mr Allen, 50, attended the former Haugh Shaw and Crossley and Porter schools in Halifax and has always been interested in photography.

He joined the Parachute Regiment and had a 22-year career with the regular army serving in Northern Ireland (five tours), Bosnia, Norway, Cyprus, Kenya and the U.S.

He left in 2001 with the rank of Colour Sergeant and promptly joined 4 Para - the reserve battalion and has been mobilised twice in recent years to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Allen carried a camera on operations and during 2003 he recorded the securing of the British Embassy in Baghdad with 1 Para. He was thrilled with the opportunity to record the Paras in Afghanistan.

“I hope my book pays fitting tribute to the soldiers at the sharp end of this bitter conflict,” said Mr Allen, who now lives in Edinburgh with his wife Cathy.

His parents Joan and Eddie Longbottom live at Willowfield, Pye Nest, and sister Gillian Davies, at Savile Park.

He is now working on a second book, a novel, set in wartime Italy and remains with 4 Para as the Battalion Photographer which he combines with work as a freelance.

“With The Paras In Helmand” costs £15.41 on Amazon and is also sold by W. H. Smith and Tesco.