“You never hear about the kids. Every so often you will see a wife or a mum come on TV and say he was the greatest, but you never hear the kids.”
With every news announcement about the latest war casualty, it’s sometimes forgotten that there’s a family behind that latest statistic.
My Dad’s Army tells the stories behind the headlines as the children of our fallen heroes speak about their fathers.
Through their voices, My Dad’s reveals the struggles, courage and bravery shown by the children of servicemen killed in Afghanistan.
Over 350 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan alone since 2001, and this new documentary looks at the impact their deaths have on their children.
The film is told from the child’s perspective – giving them a chance to record memories of their Dad. It allows them to have a voice – a voice that is often unrepresented.
My Dad’s Army includes young people from a variety of backgrounds but who are all linked by the experience of losing a parent to war.
The children featured range from 2 years to 21 years old and the bravery and courage of each one is remarkable.
Young girls and boys having to adjust to life without their fathers talk about their loss and recall their intimate memories of the men killed in the current conflict. .
The children featured range from babies whose families are facing having to explain why their father won’t be around, to a 20 year old whose dad died just months before he could buy him his first pint. The servicemen’s widows also tell the programme how their children have been affected.
Nine year old Ethan Horton is too young to remember the start of the war in Afghanistan which took his dad.
Ethan and his dad shared a love of football and Ethan plans a charity football match in his remembrance. He says: “I want to show everyone else how proud I am by doing a football match for Help the Heroes and my dad to raise money for the injured soldiers. It’s important to raise money for the soldiers, because it’s important for them to do the job out there to save Britain and stop the people hurting other people.”
His mother Jane says: “At the funeral, he didn’t cry walking in. He held his head high. He walked ahead of all the adults. And then when we sat down he said, ‘I don’t really want to be in this church.’ He didn’t shed a tear, he was so strong. We think we are being strong for him, but he is so strong anyway. You look at Ethan and you think, ‘He’s lost the most important person.’”
At the National Memoriam Arboretum the children of Sergeant Michael Lockett MC look for their dad’s name amongst the thousands of others etched into the stone. The father of Connor, (age nine), Chloe (seven) and Courtney (six), died in Helmand Province 15 months ago. Standing at the memorial, Chloe says: “I’m looking at my dad’s name which has MC after it which stands for Military Cross. Not a lot of people have been awarded the Military Cross and it is awarded by the Queen. I think the people that win a Military Cross are brave.”
Charlton Taylor is too young to even remember his father, Lance Corporal Michael Taylor, who fought in the Royal Marines. At their home in North Wales his two older brothers Ethan and Wesley put together a memory box for him. Thirteen year old Ethan says: “Charlton is one year and six days. I’m putting this picture in [the box] because Charlton will start to realise how special he was and how lucky we were to have him as a dad. Our dad was special and he was really special to us.”
Royal Marines Sergeant Steven Derbyshire, Darbs to his colleagues, died in a gun battle leaving behind him two young sons – Ryan age six and Callum age four. His wife Kate says: “I told them on the day that [he died]. I just tried to explain it to them in a way that they would understand. I said to them when you play army with your friends and you hide, that’s what happened with Steven… I’ve had conversations with Callum about heaven and he knows that’s where his dad is and he thinks it’s a nice place and if that’s what he thinks then I’m happy with that.”
Ryan and Callum still enjoy playing army games and dressing up in their dad’s old uniform. Ryan says: “This is what he wears on his back and this is what he cleaned his gun with. We got to wear our green berets as they were my dad’s.”
Nichola Scott is mother to Kai, age six, and Brooke, two. Her husband Corporal Lee Scott was based at Tidworth barracks in Hampshire and the family has lived most of their lives in army housing. Now, like many other military children who lose their father, Kai and Brooke are having to move home. Nichola says: “I was coming home from school in the car and I saw a big welcome home daddy banner on someone’s house and it just hits you like that and you think, ‘I wouldn’t have had to have seen that if I lived somewhere else.’ Where we live there is obviously people coming home from tour all the time.”
To help her children remember their father Nichola has made special blankets for them. She explains: “We got one of Lee’s combat shirts and we cut just two squares and then we took some badges and we sewed the badges on. Brooke can’t sleep without her daddy blanket and Kai will often have his at night. They are really, really special.”
Ashley Dolan, now 20, was 17 when his dad died. He says: “17 is a horrible age really, because you are not really mature as an adult, but you are expected to be more mature than a child. It would have been just about two months before I turned 18 and turning 18 with your dad is kind of a big thing. You can take him out to the pub…and I never got to do that and that in itself was possibly one of the most upsetting things.”
On the day of Ethan’s charity football match and he comes off the bench to score the winning goal. He says: “I hope my dad is watching me and he’s happy with what I’m doing and playing football. I think he’s watching me when I’m scoring my goals. I reckon that he’s thinking that I’m doing good and doing what he told me to do.”
And the film ends back at the Arboretum where the Lockett children set off a Chinese Lantern in memory of their day. “I think it will go straight to him, like a message that we are still here remembering him”
The war in Afghanistan continues to claim the lives of servicemen and women. As well as soldiers, sailors and aircrew many are fathers. Since the conflict began more that 180 children have been left with out their dad.
Sunday, 6 March 2011, 10:20PM – 11:20PM ITV1