Thursday, 18 July 2013


Here's a scene that has become an iconic image of Britain's deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, British Service Men on active duty at Christmas time.


It's a poignant scene as a front-line unit of Royal Marines gather for a brief carol service in Helmand Province and a chance to collect their thoughts of the families and homes they're separated from during the festive season. Danger is never far away. In fact, a short time later this service was interrupted by a incoming rocket attack. In an instant, the serried ranks we see here had broken up as soldiers rushed to their action stations to repel the attack.

Even more remarkably, that objective achieved, the carol service resumed a short time later, followed by a special turkey dinner served in shifts at the camp mess.

Taken by semi-professional photographer, Captain Euan Goodman, there are a number of factors which mark this out as an image of distinction. There's the incongruity of servicemen swapping their helmets for Santa Claus hats; Christmas being celebrated in the desert; and the neat ranks of a professional fighting force in a conflict with a guerrilla opposition. A sense of order amongst the chaos and, in the mould of many conflict photographs, a reminder that wars are fought by men and women, all too young, and some of whom face serious injury, if not even death.

It's a moment of suspension and a reminder of why a photograph is so different from a video or an iMovie, as, in the millisecond of a shutter release, the clock of time is stopped and a defining moment captured.

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