What is bravery?

As I sit here getting ever closer to the end of my latest tour of duty, I contemplate the mind set of the British soldier.  This may or may not be one of the most dangerous places on the planet, probably not but it is still dangerous.  It makes me wonder exactly what bravery is.

Is it simply brave to just be here?  Is it brave to step outside the wire?  Is it brave to fly those flying chariots that are our primary mode of transport here?  Is it brave to don all of your PPE (Personal protective equipment)?  Is it brave to poke your head up over a wall in the middle of Helmand?


I am not sure.  These are the day to day experiences of some of the soldiers out here in Afghanistan.  Although you feel trepidation prior to any of the above, when you get there, you just go, do your business and the training takes over.  You are so busy looking, thinking, observing, watching, you don’t really have the time to be worried.  We don’t constantly worry about every step, or that it could be your last.


I certainly don’t feel brave when in the relative safety of Camp Bastion.  I don’t feel ‘brave’ when I go out on patrol, I don’t feel ‘brave’ when I fly in the Merlin or Chinook and I certainly don’t feel brave wrapped up in my PPE (only bloody heavy).

So what is brave?

I had the good fortune this week to photograph a soldier who had been lucky.  He had been shot by an insurgent, whilst on patrol in Helmand.  Luckily for him he was saved by his body armour, the round embedding into his back plate.

Armed with what remains of the round, we were tasked to get some photographs of Trooper Dan Griffiths for the UK press, I asked him how he felt.  He told me that he ‘worried’ now.  During the incident he was knocked down with such force that he truly believed he was seriously injured.  He admitted to screaming in pain, clambering for cover.  Only when checked over by his comrade was he then aware he had escaped injury and just how lucky he was.  Dan is now one of the few who knows what it feels like to be shot and I am sure it is not an experience he would like to repeat, yet he still has to endure, he still has patrols to go on, operations to take part in, be part of a team.

Simply put, in light of his experiences, in my eyes, Trooper Griffiths is brave.


  1. My wife sent this to me and asked me to post on here.

    It’s good but really hard for me to read as i gag my way through a rank coffee, trying not to shed tears in front of all the other wives in toasties. What u see as brave is different to what we see. Not only u guys out there but the families back here. As the children get up and keep going to school, young boys that step into their fathers giant footsteps while dad is away, a little girl goong to sleep at night with a smile and an imaginary cuddle from daddy, wives going about their daily lives, doing it all on their own but keeping the tears until they can be soaked up ny a pillow. I see wives who are in an empty house night after night with only the television for company. Bravery comes in all shapes and sizes and steps up to the plate when needed, normally without its user realising that, that is what they are being. On another note, we are really missing u and are now counting the days. Love u so much. Xxx p.s.feel free tocutand paste into your blog if u like baby. Xxxx

    The families behind are often forgotten about.

  2. Martin said:

    Superb blog, and great photos…… I feel very humble viewing them from the safety and comfort of my room

  3. tony coleman said:

    How brave is brave? To me bravery comes when you carry on in spite of a very real personal fear that tells you not to.
    In all walks of life we face scary moments, in many cases they are just taken for granted due to our training and job knowledge that enables us to carry out our tasks however dangerous they are or are percieved to be by others who have not been trained to deal with that particular situation, BUT there comes a time when due to circumstances, eg: Trooper Griffiths, it would be perfectly reasonable to not be able to face a situation, however that person does force themselves to go back into the fearful arena and push themselves beyond what would be considerd reasonable.
    So to me bravery comes when a person goes beyond the expected and outside thier comfort zone. An area that I would have thought applies to most if not all of the men & women working in areas of conflict and those who are linked to them.
    Those of us sat at home in our warm nests can only be thankful that thier are those who are brave enough to go that extra mile.
    Sorry, not put together that well but I hope you get the jist and realise I think You are all Brave. THANK YOU from those of us at home.

  4. Les said:

    Really great photos Mark and beautiful sentiments from your wife.

    • Thanks Les, after a while you kind of get immersed in your own world and can begin to get absent minded about the plight of your loved ones.

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