18 Aug 2021

Afghanistan: son and daughter reflect on the pain of losing their soldier father

Along with Afghanistan’s national calamity come countless personal tragedies.

In the UK, the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan has sharpened the grief of service families, and of the children left to grow up without a father.

Regimental Sergeant Major Darren Chant was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, leaving three children behind.

We spoke to his son Connor and daughter Victoria, both of whom are trying to make sense of their loss again after Afghanistan’s fall.

‘Didn’t die in vain’

Victoria was just eight years old when she lost her father.

RSM Chant, of the Grenadier Guards, was 40 years old when he was killed on his second tour of Afghanistan.

“He was like a big, cuddly bear in my eyes,” Vitoria said.

She refuses to believe her father died for no reason.

“He allowed children to grow up in a place where they didn’t have to hide who they were,” she said.

“They allowed kids to go to school. They allowed women not to wear a burka.

“He didn’t die in vain. His death isn’t in vain, but it doesn’t take away the anger.”

Her father was killed on 3 November in Helmand province after an Afghan policeman he had been training turned on him.

His son Connor Chant was thousands of miles away in the UK when he received the call the next morning.

He said: “Instantly I knew. It hit me. It hit me so badly. It kind of just felt like everything inside just fell apart.”

He decided he needed to break the news to his siblings – something that still haunts him.

“I live with their reaction,” he said. “That is constantly in my head.”

‘For nothing’

Many ex-servicemen and women, as well as their families, have watched in horror as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan and into Kabul in the past few weeks.

Connor, 27, said: “My dad’s death and all the other service personnel – UK, US, Afghan – it’s just for nothing.”

He added: “It’d be great to say. My dad helped a lot, and I think that’s what really helped us get through these last years, but, nothing now, it’s all just been wiped.”

The collapse of the Afghan state was hastened by the collapse of the Afghan military.

Connor said: “They’d been taught by the best. They’d been given the best equipment, the best resources. Billions of pounds worth of investment. And when push comes to shove. They’ve run. Cowards. I’m not happy with them at all.”

Only a few weeks ago Connor believed a British presence in Afghanistan was needed to “see out” the campaign.

But the events of the past week have changed his mind.

He said: “Leave, completely. No more British lives. No one needs to suffer like how my brother, sister and I did. No more families need to struggle the way we have. It just needs a massive stop now.”

There were 457 British personnel who died during the campaign in Afghanistan.