Letters sent by a Birmingham nurse to her family while serving in Afghanistan now form the focus of an exhibition on the conflict, writes Vicky Farncombe.
While schoolgirl Nicole Davies-Griffith settled down to enjoy Holby City in her Birmingham home, in a military hospital thousands of miles away, her nurse mother was waking up to another 12-hour shift patching up amputees in Afghanistan.
A volunteer with the Territorial Army’s 207 Field Hospital, Claire Davies-Griffith took leave from her usual job as an A&E nurse at the Queen Elizabeth hospital, Edgbaston, in September 2010, to serve for six months at Camp Bastion.
The contrast between her life and that of her family – husband Chris, aged 57, son Matthew, aged eight, and Nicole, aged 12 – was captured in a series of love letters they wrote to one another.
And now those letters have formed the basis of a new film being shown at the Imperial War Museum North, in Manchester.
For Mrs Davies-Griffith, as well as showing the sacrifices soldiers make – leaving their loved ones to bring peace to Afghanistan – the film is a gentle reminder that it is women as well as men who are out there, fighting on the front line.
She also hopes it puts paid to the old-fashioned stereotype that the TA is just a “weekend drinking club”.
“I’ve been with the TA since 1993,” said Mrs Davies-Griffith, of Selly Oak.
“Ever since the second Iraq War in 2003, I knew I would one day be deployed. I could have left then but I wanted to stay.
“Watching 9/11 was the turning point for me. I knew I didn’t want my children, particularly my daughter, to grow up in a world where the Taliban could ever gain control. They treat women worse than dogs.
“For that reason, I’ve always wanted to do my bit,” said the 47-year-old.
The Welsh nurse was picked to feature in the exhibition because she was one of the few soldiers who still communicates via letter.
She said: “Most people communicate via email or Facebook these days so the Army noticed that I was sending and receiving a lot of letters.
“My husband and I have always written each other letters. It’s just what we do.”
What makes her letters so poignant is that they intermingle horrific reports of blown-apart soldiers with mundane requests for favourite British snacks and instructions on what to buy the children for Christmas.
“I saw so much trauma,” she explained. “Double amputees, triple amputees, gun shot wounds to heads and chests.
“A shift didn’t go by without a major trauma. We were supposed to work 12 hours on and sleep for the next 12 hours, but a night would rarely go by without us being called from our beds.