Page last updated at 07:14 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 08:14 UK

Memories of a son who will never return

By Joe Campbell
BBC South Today

Rifleman Paul Donnachie
Rifleman Paul Donnachie was killed while on patrol in Basra

As British troops packed their kitbags ready to leave Iraq, Jamie and Anne Donnachie were beginning an altogether sadder journey.

They were heading for the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire on the second anniversary of their son Paul's death.

His shooting, while on patrol with the 2nd Battalion, the Rifles, left his mother's life "completely wrecked".

At the family home in Burghfield Common in Berkshire the walls of the living room are covered with pictures of the 18-year-old.

Most are in uniform, and his family explain that ever since joining the Army cadets aged 13 he had wanted to serve in the military.

His father Jamie describes how his son delayed leaving school for a year so that he would be 18 when he joined up and ready to go on active service as soon as possible.

He couldn't stop watching the news, worried something would happen and he wasn't there
Jamie Donnachie

Then as he finished training, he pushed for a posting to the Rifles 2nd Battalion as they were next in line to be sent to Iraq.

Now, as Britain brings down the flag over its base at Basra Airport his father takes comfort from the hope that the people of Iraq have the chance for a fresh start.

"The army got done, the job they were given to do," he says.

"They have handed over the regions to the Iraqi army and police and to that government so that they can run it themselves now and Paul was a part of that."

While father Jamie admits that "life stopped" the day an Army officer arrived at their front door with the news Paul had been killed, he takes consolation from the fact that he was killed living his dream of a life in the army.

Jamie Donnachie
Paul's father said "life stopped" when the news came through

The last time he saw his son alive was when he came home on leave from Iraq.

"His biggest concern was should something happen to someone else when he was on leave," recalls Mr Donnachie.

"He couldn't stop watching the news, worried something would happen and he wasn't there."

As he talks, Paul's mum Anne leaves the room. Two years on she still finds her son's death too painful to talk about.

The pain is made worse by the questions she has about just what Paul died for.

In a letter to Gordon Brown, she asked the Prime Minister: "With many of the objectives still not having been achieved, then what was the point of sending them in the first place?"

On the table in the living room of the terraced house where Paul grew up lies another letter. This one is addressed to them from the commanding officer of the battalion in which their son served.

In it, he tells the Donnachies that Paul's former comrades will pause to think of him this week as they now face fresh dangers in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.

Over the last two years, they've watched the celebrations on the TV news as families have welcomed home loved ones from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jamie Donnachie says he understands the relief they must feel. But it's a joy this family will never know again.



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