British troops posed for a souvenir snapshot of what they thought would be their Afghan adventure, ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies reports
Take a look at the photograph above. It is of C Company, 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment. 128 young men in the uniform of the British Army, most in their twenties, a few in their teens - all now veterans of a long and bitter war.
When British troops were first sent to the Taliban heartland of Helmand Province in 2006, the death toll in Afghanistan stood at five.
There was optimism in the British ranks, so much so that the elite combat unit known as C Company posed for the photo at the start of what they considered their Afghanistan adventure.
“I think a lot of us had a fairly typical, romantic view of operations,” recalled Major Paul Blair, commander of C Company.
“Some people thought it was going to be a real summer vacation, the beach where the tide never comes in,” Nick Quinton, a Territorial Army soldier who had volunteered to join the battalion, said.
“And the other camp was, no, this is Afghanistan, people fight in Afghanistan, it’s a warrior nation.”
By the time the photograph was taken, 35 more had been killed and British troops were locked in the most intense period of sustained combat since the Korean war.
ITV News correspondent Bill Neely and cameraman Eugene Campbell were in Sangin, Helmand Province as the photograph was taken.
Watch ITV News' first report from Sangin in 2006, which was filmed while our crew was under fire from Taliban forces
Their reports of the fierce fighting in Helmand were the first to alert the British public that a mission the government hoped would pass without a shot being fired was turning into a full-scale war.
Fifteen years since that photograph of C Company was taken, ITV News has traced the people in the photograph to find out what happened to them and to tell their stories in our series, Afghanistan: Photo From The Frontline.
We have identified almost all of the C Company veterans, contacted over half and interviewed many.
We asked them to share their memories of Afghanistan and the impact the war has had on their lives – and in this series, we bring you their stories.