As Britain approaches the end of its combat operations in Afghanistan, the usual fanfare associated with victory in war will be notably absent. No triumphal parades, no formal surrender ceremony, and no heroic march into an enemy's capital. As Churchill wrote in 1897, "the victory must be looked for in the results."
Imagine you woke up tomorrow and heard on the news that a prominent woman MP here in Britain had been kidnapped along with her two daughters. It would be utterly shocking. Now imagine it's a few weeks later and you hear that another female parliamentarian, a member of the House of Lords for example, has narrowly escaped an attack in which her daughter was killed. But this is exactly what's happened in Afghanistan this summer.
The hero-soldier brand is undeniably potent. The increased presence of soldiers at sports events - be it at Premier League games or the Olympics - is a shrewd move by the PR-savvy Ministry of Defence. The idea of a wholesome, dutiful hero is very appealing and is very much a feature of British identity, intertwined as it is with our military history and our imperial present.
Since my brush with death at the Ashura bombing in Kabul, and my crack on the head, I have developed a disturbing ability. In the same way that bats can locate moths by echolocation, I have discovered that I can locate furniture with my shins. We never stop learning it seems. It started in Dubai when I jammed my foot into a table and sliced my toe open.
Next to my tent in Camp Bastion is the Vigil Ceremony Parade Ground, where those killed in action are remembered. Inscribed on the monument are the names of all the soldiers that have given their lives in Helmand. Carved into stone are these words: "When you go home tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today."
We patrolled for six hours, a wearing journey I can assure you, and whilst never blasé, you can also become a little un-attentive after a while. 50 yards behind me a soldier lost his legs a couple of weeks back, 600 yards to my left is a sniper, to the front is a compound with insurgents, we can see them watching us, and the same to our right, a compound chock full of people who rightly or wrongly wish us ill.