Page last updated at 18:30 GMT, Sunday, 16 August 2009 19:30 UK

Town feels pain of troop deaths

Adam Fleming
BBC News, Castleford

James Backhouse's funeral procession
The mother of Rifleman James Backhouse said the troops should continue their mission in Afghanistan

The west Yorkshire town of Castleford is feeling the pain behind the grim statistics of the British losses in Afghanistan. Two servicemen from the town have died this summer.

Rifleman James Backhouse was killed in an explosion in Helmand Province on 10th July.

The fence outside his family home is festooned with flags and messages calling him a hero.

His mother Sharon Backhouse said she couldn't have asked for a better son.

"I just knew as soon as I got the call that James had died and I was just totally in shock. I just can't explain how we feel.

She described her son as a "party animal" who loved life.

Instead he came home in a box on Tuesday when he should have been home on Monday
Janeen Snaith, Aunt

She said: "We've got some pictures of him on Facebook from Afghanistan and he was still full of life there, just posing with his shutter shades on.

"It's really good we can see things like that because it makes me feel better to see that he was so full of life."

She thinks her son's colleagues should continue fighting.

"He was doing a job he wanted to do. He wanted to go but I just wanted him home.

"If they fetch them all out now I'll feel like I've lost my son for nothing."

Rifleman Backhouse had been planning to come home early to surprise his mother

"I didn't know he was coming home on the 13th. I thought he was coming home on the 26th - but it was a surprise for me."

"Instead he came home in a box on Tuesday when he should have been home on Monday," Aunt Janeen Snaith added.

Mission 'questionable'

Outside All Saints Church it is windy but quiet.

A few days ago a thousand people lined the streets to pay their respects at the funeral of Castleford's second young victim, bombardier Craig Hopson, aged 24, and the victim of a roadside bomb.

The family of Craig Hopson at his funeral
The town said troops should continue their mission

At the regular Sunday service the congregation offered their prayers for the families who have lost loved-ones but they questioned whether the mission in Afghanistan was defined clearly enough or whether victory is achievable.

One resident said after the service: "The mission in Afghanistan is to liberate the majority of Afghanistanis who are now living like prisoners because they are not free to do what they would like to do - as we are free now and we take that for granted.

"But you've got to weigh that against the lives of our people out there and that's a very difficult decision to make."

Full support

Another member of the congregation said: "Whether they should be there or they shouldn't be there.

"We voted a government in to make these decisions and the decision was made quite a long time ago.

"It doesn't make it right, it doesn't make it wrong, but to deny that they ever should have been there you are denying that these boys have died for a reason. "

There were also questions about the British strategy against the Taliban amongst the ex-servicemen at the Royal British Legion.

While they played their weekly raffle, some complained that today's troops should be better equipped.

Others feared that British forces were in danger of becoming bogged down as the Russian army did when they occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The people of Castleford fully support the service personnel who are engaged against the Taliban but they fear that towns like theirs are losing too many young lives to this conflict.

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