The role of a padre serving with the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department (RAChD) is to minister to soldiers and their families, to give them pastoral, spiritual and moral support. The padres are commissioned as chaplains but wear officers’ rank, leaders but without command. They are sent wherever soldiers are sent, and are moved individually between units every two to three years.
The Reverend Alan Steele MBE is in his early fifties and is the senior padre of 16 Air Assault Brigade based in Colchester. The interview is in his book-lined Army quarter where his two teenage children serve us tea and ginger biscuits.
Steele had his first tour of duty to Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (2 Para) in 2001/2002.
“No Afghan ruler will henceforth, unless he is prepared for an immediate rupture, either admit a Russian envoy into his capital, or repel an English Mission.” The brave words of the Saturday Review, 1879.
The bold statement was reprinted in the The Graphic, a magazine from London which that week, June 7, 1879, printed its first article referring to the ‘late Afghan War’. The two pieces that follow, the second on troopship bath-times, are as produced in the original edition of The Graphic.
May 31, 1879, The Graphic, an illustrated weekly newspaper from London, predicts trouble in Afghanistan if the British Army withdraws; celebrates Londoners getting their bridges back; takes a canter round the Shanghai Derby; and has a solution for ‘general debility’.
Shabibi Shah left Afghanistan almost exactly thirty years ago – in March 1983.
The slim book, Where do I Belong?, is about Shabibi Shah’s life in Afghanistan and then as a refugee.
The tale is written with precision and in English, a language Shabibi mastered in her late forties. She is a published poet in her own language of Dari, and is careful with words.