Page last updated at 19:17 GMT, Monday, 13 July 2009 20:17 UK

A soldier's poem for the fallen

By Anna Adams
Interactive reporter, BBC News

Royal Marines in the Afghanistan, 2009. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

When Staff Sergeant Andrew McFarlane heard his eighth comrade had died in 24 hours he decided to put pen to paper.

After almost 27 years in the Territorial Army and three international tours he's grown accustomed to attending vigils to remember the dead - but never so many in such a short period of time.

It took Andrew, who serves with the Adjutant General's Corps, less than an hour to write the six verses that are now circulating across the world after his wife put them on her Facebook page.

Speaking from Camp Bastion before the memorial service on Monday he said: "As you can imagine it's a subdued atmosphere tonight. I've been to vigils before but there are just too many happening at the moment.

"I felt so emotional when I heard about the deaths here at the camp, especially the fact that they were just young lads, that I wrote the poem."

Sgt McFarlane, 47, said: "I never expected it to be read by the public and I must admit I'm a bit over-awed by all the interest it's created. It was just something private that helped me."

The father of two is nine weeks into a 12-month tour of Afghanistan. It's his second tour in as many years.

He's written a few poems before but nothing quite like this. They are usually very personal but this one had me in tears
Alison McFarlane, wife of Sgt McFarlane

Five of those who died on Friday were members of the County Down-based 2nd Battalion The Rifles. They were: Cpl Jonathan Horne, and Riflemen Joseph Murphy, Daniel Simpson, William Aldridge and James Backhouse. The sixth was Cpl Lee Scott, of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment.

In the same 24 hours - the bloodiest since the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001 - Rifleman Daniel Hume, of 4th Battalion The Rifles, and Pte John Brackpool, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, also died.

Andrew e-mailed the poem to his wife Alison McFarlane, who helps run a support group for military wives, in the hope it would bring some comfort to her friends at home.

Alison of Bicester, Oxfordshire, said: "He's written me a few poems before but nothing quite like this. They are usually very personal but this one had me in tears and I had to share it with other people who have a loved one in the military.

"You have to be stoic and get on with life but when I read his poem my eyes filled up with tears.

"I just thought of him sitting down to write this in 50 degree heat after an exhausting day.

"I put it on Facebook so my friends could read it but I didn't realise it would circulate quite so far and so fast. It's even been on Twitter.

"All the attention is not really Andy's style but the poem has brought comfort to a lot of people who're left behind. And I'm proud of that."

Sunset Vigil

The news is spread far and wide
Another comrade has sadly died
A sunset vigil upon the sand
As a soldier leaves this foreign land

We stand alone, and yet as one
In the fading light of a setting sun
We've all gathered to say goodbye
To our fallen comrade who's set to fly

The eulogy's read about their life
Sometimes with words from pals or wife
We all know when the CO's done
What kind of soldier they'd become

The padre then calls us all to pray
The bugler has Last Post to play
The cannon roars and belches flame
We will recall, with pride, their name

A minute's silence stood in place
As tears roll down the hardest face
Deafening silence fills the air
With each of us in personal prayer

Reveille sounds and the parade is done
The hero remembered, forgotten by none
They leave to start the journey back
In a coffin draped in the Union Jack



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