Published in the Church Times: Interview with a military chaplain

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Military operations through the eyes of the padre: ‘sent wherever soldiers are sent’

Rev Alan Steele out on the ground

Rev Alan Steele out on the ground

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.
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Afghanistan – as seen by The Graphic weekly newspaper 1879

Posting dispatches - Afghanistan

Posting dispatches – Afghanistan

“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.

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Afghanistan, the Thames and Shanghai in The Graphic May 1879

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’.

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Troubles around the world, as seen by The Graphic in London in 1867

Morosi's stronghold

Morosi’s stronghold

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BOOK REVIEW: Where do I Belong? by Shabibi Shah


Where do I Belong? From Kabul to London – A Refugee’s Life by Shabibi Shah

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.

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Interview with Shabibi Shah Nola – Afghan poet, writer and community leader

Shabibi Shah Nola - Afghan poet, writer and community leader Photo by Georgie Knaggs

Shabibi Shah Nola – Afghan poet, writer and community leader
Photo by Georgie Knaggs

This piece was written for The New Londoners, thanks to the Migrants Resource Centre and the Ruth Hayman Trust, who kindly arranged my interview with Shabibi Shah – Afghan poet, writer and community leader.

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