Ex-minister Johnny Mercer pledges to keep fighting for veterans on anniversary of friend's Afghanistan death

Johnny Mercer and Mark in Afghanistan
Johnny Mercer said Mark Chandler 'died in my arms' after being shot by insurgents in Afghanistan. Credit: Twitter/Johnny Mercer

Former veterans minister Johnny Mercer has pledged to keep fighting for the rights of current and ex-service personnel and their families as he remembered a comrade killed in Afghanistan on the eleventh anniversary of his death.

Writing on Twitter, the former Army captain paid tribute to his colleague Mark Chandler who he said "was shot in the face next to me and died in my arms".

"I still think of what might have been for him - family, life, happiness."

The Conservative MP for Plymouth Moor View added that June can "be a tough month" and he "lost a lot of friends in Afghanistan".

Mr Mercer recalled how a few days after Mr Chandler was killed, he visited the lance bombardier's parents.

He recalled how "their loss was indescribable" and that both of them "never recovered".

The 39-year-old continued: "It seems - even now at times, like these experiences were for a community, detached from normal Britain.

"These families are deeply special people who sacrifice at the altar of this Nation’s freedoms, and should have the State wrap their arms around them and those who return injured having done their duty.

"My current work will not cease until that is realised."

Mr Mercer than tagged Prime Minister Boris Johnson in order to bring the post to his attention.

Earlier this year, Mr Mercer quit as veterans minister, unhappy about the government's inability to stop investigations into former personnel during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The Tory MP had been involved in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill.

Lance Bombardier Mark Chandler died after being shot by insurgents in Afghanistan. Credit: Ministry of Defence

The legislation was developed after legal claims were made about operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it does not cover incidents in Northern Ireland - a point of contention for Mr Mercer.

The Bill, which would mean personnel cannot be prosecuted more than five years after an incident, gained royal assent after Mr Mercer left his role.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Mr Mercer took aim at Mr Johnson's government which he claimed risks "damaging an already bruised veterans cohort further".

“Whilst we continue to say all the right things, you will understand that if we fail to match that with what we deliver, we risk damaging an already bruised veterans cohort further, as I told you last month in our first face to face meeting, we crossed that line some time ago," he wrote in a letter to the prime minister.

Last month, Mr Mercer voiced anger that there was no mention on legacy investigations concerning Northern Ireland veterans in the Queen's Speech.

He claimed he had been “personally promised” there would be legislation on a number of occasions, but it was never delivered – “Hence I resigned".

“My successor promised it would be in the Queen’s Speech. It is not. At some stage, we must fulfil our promises to our veterans.”