A SHEFFIELD man who has just become engaged after a whirlwind romance must now spend six months apart from his fiancee - because they are both being deployed to Afghanistan.
Territorial Army soldier Martin ‘Rich’ Richardson, aged 47, a self-employed property manager from Walkley, only got together with student Harriet Dutton, 21, seven months ago.
Both met two years ago as members of the Fourth Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, where Martin is a Corporal and Harriet a Private who specialises as a combat medic.
Martin, whose TA base is at Endcliffe Hall in Sheffield, popped the question to Harriet, who is studying for an MA in Chemistry at Huddersfield University, during a break from pre-deployment training.
He said: “We were at Chilwell Barracks in Nottingham, where all TA soldiers going to Afghanistan spend their first week of pre-deployment training, and had met up for a coffee to have a bit of ‘us’ time when I popped the question.”
But due to circumstances, there was no ring - Martin has arranged with Pandora jewellers for Harriet to have a special set of dog tags made to wear on her tour of duty.
He will buy her a ring on their return to the UK.
The couple are both due to deploy later this year.
Martin will be driving trucks which travel in giant convoys sometimes up to a mile long, supplying British bases around Helmand Province.
For Harriet, as well as being available to help casualties, her role includes being a member of a ‘women’s liaison team’ - female soldiers tasked with meeting Afghan women to help in the battle for locals’ hearts and minds.
Martin, who has served in Iraq and on two previous tours in Afghanistan, has mixed feelings about his fiancee’s first deployment.
He said: “If you asked me whether I was happy that a highly-trained combat medic was being deployed to Afghanistan, I’d say yes - but as my fiancee, I’m also bloody worried about her.”
Harriet said: “I’m going to be worried about him, obviously, but I’ll be kept busy concentrating on doing my job. Hopefully, Martin will keep safe.”
She added: “Some of the lads from the regiment have already been trying to plan the wedding for us but we’ve not yet decided what we are doing.”
Martin and Harriet have just spent a final two weeks together on a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons, in Wales, with more than 200 TA soldiers deploying later this year - but will be separated for their final training over the coming weeks.
The couple’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ian Crowley, said: “I’m delighted for them, that romance has blossomed amongst the hard work that is going on preparing the soldiers for their deployment.”