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Poignant pictures mark anniversary of Army's Afghanistan exit

Published 25/10/2015

An image taken by war photographer Robert Wilson of Sarah Adams merged with an original photo from Afghanistan (SSAFA/PA)
An image taken by war photographer Robert Wilson of Sarah Adams merged with an original photo from Afghanistan (SSAFA/PA)
An image taken by war photographer Robert Wilson of Mark Bond merged with an original photo from Afghanistan (SSAFA/PA)
An image taken by war photographer Robert Wilson of Elizabeth Holmes-Daniels merged with an original photo from Afghanistan (SSAFA/PA)

A father sits in a dusty camp in Afghanistan next to a chessboard with a white knight in his hand - but his favourite opponent and son is missing.

Sapper Elijah Bond, 24, died from his wounds after being struck by an IED in Helmand Province in 2011. He was one of 454 British servicemen and women who lost their lives in the conflict.

This emotional image of his father Mark Bond remembering his son is part of a series of powerful pictures taken by renowned war photographer Robert Wilson.

They have been commissioned by the Armed Forces charity SSAFA to mark the first anniversary of the withdrawal of UK combat troops from Afghanistan, and show relatives of Britons who lost their lives in the war.

Mr Bond, 55, from St Austell in Cornwall, said: "The photo was taken in our back garden and the photographer asked me to choose a piece to hold in my hand. I picked up the white knight and I felt as if I was holding Elijah - that is what he was to our family.

"We would often play chess together. He would have been incredibly young when he took a liking to the game - I can't remember teaching him really but it is something we often played.

"We would find a quiet place on the beach somewhere and while away the hours with a beer and a couple of games of chess.

"I only have a small copy of the photo, but I can still feel the power of it - I can smell the dust."

Mr Bond said his son, who served with the 35 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, had been working on building a bridge when he was killed.

He has often wanted to visit the spot, but has not been able to. He said: "I may not be able to go, but the photographer took me there in this image."

In another poignant shot, Sarah Adams hangs fatigues on a washing line while remembering her son, Private James Prosser, 21, who used to bring his washing home. He was killed in an explosion during a vehicle patrol in 2009.

Another photo, entitled Camping, shows Elizabeth Holmes-Daniels deep in thought and holding a cup of tea as she sits among tents and remembers the fond times she shared with her brother Corporal Harvey Alex Holmes when they used to go camping as a family.

He was killed in an explosion in 2010 in Sangin in Afghanistan.

The photographs have been taken as part of the charity's Left Behind campaign, which highlights the ongoing struggles faced by the families of those killed.

Mr Wilson has merged scenes captured during his many trips to Afghanistan during the conflict with recent images of bereaved family members doing something that reminds them of their loved one.

He said: "People say if you take the whole time of the conflict it is not a lot of people compared to the First or Second World Wars.

"But each one of those lives is a life that radiates out to family and friends and so it is a massive group of people that is affected by each one of those lives.

"To go and meet with the families of these people, it draws you in even further to the legacy of conflict and war and what it does to those people connected to it."

Liz Price, director of client services at SSAFA, said: "We launched the Left Behind campaign to remind the British public, on the anniversary of the withdrawal of British combat troops from Afghanistan, that the battle still goes on for families who lost their relatives during the conflict."

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