Love is a battlefield

Charlotte stood at the end of a long line. All around her people were crying and holding their family so tightly they could hardly breathe. Eventually it was Charlotte’s turn. Nathan stood in front of her looking down.

She finally allowed a tear to fall from her eye as he scooped her up and said a heartbreaking goodbye. Nathan was leaving — he was going to war.

Twenty-one-year-old Charlotte Butler has been with her fiancée since she was fourteen. She tells The Linc about what it’s like to have a partner in the armed forces.


Nathan celebrating Christmas in Afghanistan. Photo: Property of Nathan Saddington

“I’ve been with Nathan since we were in school. I remember seeing him every morning outside our form rooms and thinking to myself how gorgeous he was.

After Nathan left school he joined the Royal Logistics Corp in the British Army. At first though he didn’t like it, and only did about four weeks before of training before coming home.

I think it was too soon, he was only sixteen and I think that’s so young for anyone to just go and be taken away from everything. After three months of Nathan being out, he went back.

He had switched his trade, joined the Royal Engineers and absolutely loved it. It didn’t matter to me what he wanted to do, as long as he was happy.

His training took a long time, just under three years, and then he was qualified. He qualified in May 2009 and he left for Afghanistan in the September of that year.

When I found out he was going I tried my hardest not to think about it. It was at a point where regardless of where he was going, it was for six months, so the thought of that was hard.

When he first went to Afghanistan it was good timing because it coincided with me going back to university, and so with moving into a new place with new housemates it kept me busy. I was so lucky because they were all really supportive. It didn’t matter if it was 2 o’clock in the morning and I was balling my eyes out crying they were there.

After the first initial shock of Nathan going, life just became normal. It had to. Every morning I had something to look forward to, if there was there was going to be any post from him today (at one point I was on first name terms with the postman!), or when I got a phone call. Waking up to a call was always the best thing.


Charlotte continues to support Nathan's career choice. Photo: Neil Butler
The positive side of him going was that I got to take some time out for me, and concentrate on things such as university, but I think it made us both realise what we’ve got.

It’s easy for people to say that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and it’s not necessarily that you’ve lost it, it’s just that it’s not always there, and it showed me that’s what we had.

That five minute phone call I used to get would mean everything to me.

I would spend so much time making little boxes to send over to him and I’d go and sit with his mum for a couple of hours because it was nice to feel that connection to him.

To be totally honest it made me realise that I’m here at home, with my friends and family, and I haven’t changed my surroundings and I could still do what I want, but he was the one there in a place that I don’t like to think about.

And so when he rang, I couldn’t be upset or anything because even though it’s difficult I had to remember that I was there for him, he was the one doing the hard thing and I had got the easy task.

Me and Nathan had always talked about getting married, and I knew we would eventually. He was home from Afghanistan on his R&R (rest and recuperation) and on the fourth day he took me up on the Sheffield Eye. I’d never been on it, so I’ll admit I was a little excited.

We had one of the VIP pods and we were given some champagne and some glasses, and at the time I didn’t think anything of it. He pulled out his iPod and some little speakers and put our song on.

My heart was racing and as the eye started going round he started saying how being away had made him realise how much I meant to him, and then he got down on one knee and just blurted out really quickly “will you marry me?” and through the tears I managed to squeal a “yes!”.

What happens now is still very much undecided. Before I can move onto camp with Nathan we have to be married, and realistically we are in no rush to do so. We are lucky enough to already have a deposit for a house saved but I just think to myself, what’s the point in having our own house if you don’t have anyone to share it with, because for the foreseeable future, we’ll always be moving.

There’s the possibility that Nathan will be posted back to Afghanistan again next September, but nothing is set in stone and I do hope that things change but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”

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