LONDON.-A unique exhibition opens at the National Army Museum on 3 August. Helmand: The Soldiers Story has been built by, written by and contributed to by soldiers of 16 Air Assault Brigade, to tell the story of their experiences fighting in Afghanistans troubled Helmand Province. Over a hundred and fifty soldiers from the Brigade contributed written and oral accounts of their experiences, photographs, footage, personal diaries, letters and emails, and personal objects relating to the tour from worn-thin combat shirts to contact calendars, mugs made from mortar bomb packaging, and pieces of shrapnel kept as mementoes of war wounds.
The exhibition is a fully interactive and immersive environment featuring recreations of the environments in which soldiers live, work and fight in Helmand Province. Visitors can explore an accommodation tent in Camp Bastion, combat outposts and sangar positions, a mortar gun position, and an improvised medical outpost. In keeping with the exhibitions authenticity, soldiers from the Royal Engineers, Royal Logistic Corps, and Royal Irish Regiment built every structure, reproducing the defensive positions that they built for their comrades in Afghanistan.
Helmand: The Soldiers Story is also groundbreaking in that it was the brainchild of the soldiers of 16 Air Assault Brigade, the first NATO troops into Helmand Province in April 2006. On returning from their tour, the Brigade suggested the exhibition as a way of giving the public an insight into their own experiences. It is thought to be the first time that a heritage exhibition has attempted to explain a conflict whilst it continues to unfold.
Exhibition leader Jo Woolley said: Its been a challenging project, not least because weve never experienced anything similar. Weve never had soldiers here to build an exhibition environment from scratch before. Weve used soldiers accounts to fill the exhibition panels, because their own, intensely graphic, descriptions communicate their experiences in a way that we never could. Most of all, its been an incredibly personal project for the team - we usually write exhibitions about the experiences of soldiers weve never met, and certainly not soldiers who could be emailing us updates from the combat zone within the next eight months.
Helmand: The Soldiers Story opens to the public at the National Army Museum on 3 August. Entry is free. The Museum is open daily from 10.00 17.30.