Manchester soldier's last words become song

The final words written by a guardsman killed in Afghanistan will be released as a single by chart act The Soldiers.

Guardsman Neil Downes, known as Tony, from Manchester, died in an explosion in Helmand province in 2007.

Two letters to his family and girlfriend Jane - written to be opened in the event of his death - were adapted for the song Letters Home.

Ronnie Downes, his father, described the track as an "absolutely fantastic" tribute to the 20-year-old.

It is common practice for serving soldiers to compose a last letter to loved ones, to be opened in the event of their death.

Family blessing

The family of Guardsman Downes gave its blessing to production duo Nick Patrick and Jeff Chegwin to use his words.

The song includes the lyrics "I'm sorry to put you through all this, I'm sorry there was no last kiss" and "I'm up here in heaven, you're free to start again. My love will never end. I'm sorry to my family and friends".

Image caption Guardsman Downes died in the blast in 2007

Guardsman Downes' family welcomed The Soldiers to their pub - The Kings Head in Droylsden - on Wednesday to perform the song.

Describing the tribute, Mr Downes said: "How emotional. How proud. What a testament to him.

"It was absolutely fantastic. I'm sure other people when they hear it will feel the same. What a tribute to a lovely lad.

"There's so many emotions go through you. There's parts of our letter in it, there's part of Jane's letter in it. The way they sing it so powerfully."

Guardsman Downes, from 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards, was on patrol when his vehicle was caught in an explosion on 9 June 2007.

He had already completed one tour in Iraq with the Inkerman Company of the Grenadier Guards in 2006.

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