Veteran’s date with royalty at Afghanistan service

Daniel Darkes and his wife Sara (left) met the Duke of Cambridge during a reception following the commemoration.
Daniel Darkes and his wife Sara (left) met the Duke of Cambridge during a reception following the commemoration.

A West Haddon veteran who fought against the Taliban in Helmand Province met HRH Duke of Cambridge at a service commemorating the end of the conflict in Afghanistan.

Daniel Darkes, 26, served with the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards on two tours in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009. He joined the army straight from school in 2004, leaving his then home village of Long Buckby.

Prince William was so down to earth, like a normal person, you could ask him anything.

Daniel Darkes

On Friday, March 13 Mr Darkes joined hundreds of other veterans of the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force in a parade and service at St Paul’s Cathedral honouring those who fought and lost their lives in the 13-year conflict.

Services were also held across the UK, Germany and Afghanistan to mark the occasion.

Mr Darkes said the ceremony was a chance to mark the end of an important chapter in his life, even as the new father moves on to other things.

He said: “Prince William was so down to earth, like a normal person, you could ask him anything.

“It was good to share and speak to some of the veterans and the wounded and show a mark of respect.”

“It was all put on by the Royal British Legion and I would like to say thanks to them, they have been a real help to me.”

Mr Darkes served as a mortar-man in his first six-month tour in Afghanistan’s infamous Green Zone in Helmand Province, a bitterly contested strip of lush vegetation that served as a stronghold for the Taliban.

Mr Darkes said during his tour troops were constantly being ambushed by the enemy.

He said: “We were always alert, even we were tired, especially in 2007 when every few hours or so we would have some kind of contact.“

“Basically, if you came under fire in any area I would pin them down with mortar rounds to allow the other lads to get some shots off.”

“There were 30 of us in my platoon and we were always looking out for one another. We lost five blokes on my tour – that was a terrible shame.”

Mr Darkes also undertook a second tour in Afghanistan in 2009 before his medical discharge in 2010 due to a perforated left ear drum.

He added: “There was one point in the tour when an explosion went off near me. I don’t know what it was to this day, but it was loud.”

After leaving the armed forces in 2010 Mr Darkes joined Cummins, where he currently works as an engineer.