My son had to live like a peasant in Guards barracks, says furious mother of hero killed by Afghan policeman

Sgt-Major Darren Chant

'A legend': Sgt-Major Darren Chant in uniform

The grieving mother of a heroic Sergeant-Major gunned down by a rogue Afghan policeman has accused Labour of treating British troops like 'peasants'.

Heartbroken Elizabeth Chant, whose son Darren was killed last week, is calling on the Government to invest in better accommodation.

Warrant Officer Class 1 'Daz' Chant, 40, of 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, was one of five off-duty British soldiers shot dead last Tuesday by a man dressed in an Afghan police uniform who opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle at a police station in southern Afghanistan.

Mrs Chant, 59, said: 'Every day now we are hearing about more young boys killed over there. The Government should spend money on providing them with decent accommodation. My son lived like a peasant in some barracks.'

Mrs Chant said Darren had told her how tough it was fighting the Taliban and had complained about freezing weather at night.

She said his wife Nausheen had sent him blankets and socks.

'Darren would tell me he was shattered because he was cold at nights,' said Mrs Chant, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

'I am so proud of him. He was the bravest boy ever. All he ever wanted to be was a soldier.'

Mrs Chant said her son had been faced with 'squalor' throughout his military career. She said: 'Darren and his men often lived in squalor when they were in this country. Every time he was posted to a new barracks he would have to spend hours scrubbing his house. Before the children arrived he would have to clean every inch.

'When he arrived at the Wellington barracks there was no heating or hot water. It always took the Army ages to get things fixed.

'At Sandhurst he arrived to find the oven thick with grease. Later on there was a leak in the bathroom which I don't think was ever fixed.

'In Aldershot, the garden had grass so overgrown it reached his waist.

'The fences were broken and there was no heating. The shower was just a dribble of cold water and the toilet was black with years of grime.

'The Army would always say, "We'll get round to sorting it when we can.'' He was always on the phone to them about it. The housing was always terrible. There was always something wrong.

‘Even in Afghanistan, Darren said the kitchens were over-run with mice, but that there was nothing they could do about it, being in a desert.

'Given what they were doing for our country, the way they were forced to live was terrible.'

Just weeks before he was gunned down, WO Chant had told a close friend of his pride at being a Guardsman who 'lived and breathed' his work as a frontline soldier.

In an email from Helmand Province to a fellow soldier back home, he also said he and his men were constantly surrounded by Taliban insurgents less than a mile away from their base.

The veteran of the first Iraq War, Northern Ireland and Bosnia - whose wife is pregnant with their first child - was critical in the message home of the lack of helicopters in Afghanistan but also positive about the mission.

In the email, he wrote: 'I am so proud to be a Guardsman. I live and breathe my Division.'

He spoke of his sorrow over the loss of fellow Guardsman Jamie Janes, 18, who had been killed by a roadside bomb that also wounded three colleagues in the Nad-e'Ali district.

It was in the same area on Tuesday that WO Chant met his death.

Darren Chant with his daughter Victoria in 2001

Devoted father: Darren Chant with his daughter Victoria in 2001

The Sgt-Major - described by his comrades as an 'Army legend' and one of his regiment's most experienced soldiers - wrote: 'It was a great shame to lose a Guardsman from the Battalion. A young boy just starting out on life's adventure. These IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] are everywhere.

'The insurgents are all within a kilometre, if less, around our operating bases. We have had a number of successes though. So there is good news more than there is bad news.'

In his email dated October 10, thought to be one of his final communications, 'Daz', who was about to be commissioned as a Captain, wrote of his pride at returning to the main Camp Bastion base to conduct the repatriation ceremony for Guardsman Janes and RAF Regiment Senior Aircraftsman Marcin Wojtak, 24, who had died in a blast a few days before.

Sgt-Major Chant said of the repatriation ceremony: 'That went really well. There was a massive turnout.

'There are definitely not enough helicopters in theatre.

'I just want to be back with my boys. There are tons of fellow blue red blue brothers [Grenadiers] fighting in Helmand. Clearly, Afghanistan should be a better place for it.'

Sgt-Major Chant's mother also revealed that he need not have deployed on his last fateful tour of duty - because he was recovering from knee surgery. She said her son persuaded doctors to allow him to travel.

'Darren had keyhole surgery to repair a knee muscle,' said Mrs Chant.

'The doctors said he should rest, but his response was to say, "No." He said, "I have trained with my men and I am not allowing them to go back to Afghanistan without me there beside them."'

He had three children with his first wife Connie. Although the couple split up in 2006, he kept in close touch with Connor, 16, Adam, 10, and Victoria, eight - and was a devoted father to them.

He later met his second wife Nausheen, whom he affectionately called 'Sheenie', at Sandhurst, where she was a civilian administrative worker.

Nausheen, a non-practising Muslim, was keen for a baby boy, added Sgt-Major Chant's mother Elizabeth. She said: 'She liked the name George, but now maybe she'll call the baby Darren.'

Sgt-Major Chant's memory was honoured at Wessex League football club Petersfield Town with a minute's silence. He was the club's star striker.

The four other soldiers killed on Tuesday were Guardsman James Major,

18, Cpl Nick Webster-Smith, 24, Sgt Matthew Telford, 37, and Cpl Steven Boote, 22.

The best friend of Sgt Telford, from Grimsby, spoke of his disbelief that the best man at his wedding would not be coming home.

Sgt Telford's brother-in-law, Paul Evison, recalled being given a bear hug by the 6ft 4in soldier as he left for Afghanistan six weeks ago and hearing the words: 'Look after the family - I'll be back.'

Mr Evison, 41, said: 'He seemed as close as you can get to invincible and I never thought he wouldn't return.'

Now his promise to take care of Sgt Telford's wife Kerry and son Harry, four, is likely to be a lifelong commitment. Sgt Telford's elder son Callum, nine, by a previous relationship, lives with his mother.

Mr Evison, a security firm director, knew Sgt Telford for 15 years and met his wife Beverley through her sister Kerry, Sgt Telford's wife. Kerry, 33, will lay a wreath at Grimsby War Memorial.

The bodies of her husband and his colleagues will be flown home on Tuesday.

British forces are still hunting their killer.

'Without the Big Guy,  I wouldn't be here'

Scott Blaney

Praise: Scott Blaney, who was rescued by Darren Chant

A Guardsman whose life was saved by Darren Chant spoke of his eternal debt of gratitude to the Army hero.

Lance-Corporal Scott Blaney, who lost his right leg to a Taliban bomb in May 2007, told how Sergeant-Major Chant risked his own life by carrying him to safety on his shoulder for more than a mile in searing heat.

'Darren was an inspiration to us all. He was an Army legend. I'm devastated the man who saved my life is gone.

'We used to call him the Big Guy. He seemed to be indestructible, like Superman,' said the 23-year-old Grenadier Guardsman.

L/Cpl Blaney told how the Sergeant-Major talked to him to keep him conscious after he was blasted in an explosion while trying to clear insurgents from a village in Helmand Province.

'I was on foot patrol when an explosion went off, hitting me in the leg, the arm and the eye,' said L/Cpl Blaney, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

'I was bleeding badly and in a bad way. Darren picked me up, put me on his shoulder and carried me for more than a mile across open ground to the chopper.

'He talked to me to encourage me all the time as he carried me in that heat and humidity. I'll never forget him or be able to thank him properly. Without him and the other lads I would never have made it.

'He was a bloke you looked up to. He was the sort of bloke you wanted around when there was trouble.'

L/Cpl Blaney, who had to have his leg amputated, made history earlier this year when he took up a post at the Tower of London and became the first amputee to go on Queen's Guard duty at a Royal palace.

He also hopes to swim for Great Britain in the 2012 Paralympics in London.

'If I win a place in the team, I will dedicate my swim to Darren,' he said.

'I certainly plan to be at his funeral to pay my respects. It's a horrible tragedy.

'I owe him a debt of gratitude for life.'

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