Jane's journey — from frontline to backstage

In 2011 Jane Grant was brought face to face with the human cost of the conflict in Afghanistan.

In 2011 Jane Grant was brought face to face with the human cost of the conflict in Afghanistan. As a casualties reporting officer her job was to initiate Op Minimise. Often delivered over the PA, this shut down all communications between Helmand and the UK as soon as a British soldier was seriously injured or killed. Jane, who was a British Army Major in the Adjutants General Corps, logged and confirmed the names of those who were casualties in Operation Herrick.

"When I called Op Minimise I knew devastating news was about to be sent back home, we had to ensure details of the casualty were 100 percent accurate, and in the event of a fatality produce a eulogy. With so many sad stories the only way to deal with this was to just do the best I could."

As a casualties reporting officer her job was to initiate Op Minimise. Often delivered over the PA, this shut down all communications between Helmand and the UK as soon as a British soldier was seriously injured or killed. Jane, who was a British Army Major in the Adjutants General Corps, logged and confirmed the names of those who were casualties in Operation Herrick.

"When I called Op Minimise I knew devastating news was about to be sent back home, we had to ensure details of the casualty were 100 percent accurate, and in the event of a fatality produce a eulogy. With so many sad stories the only way to deal with this was to just do the best I could."

A few months into her tour Jane's time in Afghanistan came to an end, as five days after Christmas Jane found a lump on her breast.

I'd just been to the gym: I thought I'd just pulled a muscle.

But after visiting the doctor at Camp Bastion Jane was sent back to the UK and diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Jane was medically evacuated from Afghanistan and treated at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham. After eight months Jane went into a period of remission and her oncologist told her to "get out there and live your life", so Jane booked a 450km bike ride along the Great Wall of China, raising funds for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

"I had been worried about getting shot down in a helicopter whilst in Afghanistan, but I never expected to get cancer."

Supported by the Legion, Jane has now immersed herself in the latest production from Bravo 22 Company called Contact. An opportunity for members of the Armed Forces to have their voices heard, Contact is part of the Legion's Recovery through Theatre Programme.

After a week training at the London Academy of the Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) Jane was successfully selected as the Assistant Stage Manager for the show.

"In the army my time was saturated, now semi-retired I feel very lucky to be here, leading a quieter life, each day a blessing and filling it with living."

Whilst serving in Afghanistan Jane was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham Jane underwent eight months of treatment: chemotherapy, an operation and radiotherapy. After leaving the Army, Jane settled in Surrey with her partner Tony.

Whilst serving in Afghanistan Jane was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham Jane underwent eight months of treatment: chemotherapy, an operation and radiotherapy. After leaving the Army, Jane settled in Surrey with her partner Tony.

The couple eventually wed in Lake Como, Italy. "Tony is an amazing support, loving, kind and my rock."

"It was really tough coping with the treatment, already exhausted on the back of a demanding deployment and looking in the mirror hardly recognising myself." Her successful recovery has meant that she's started to change her outlook on life and is on the lookout for new ventures that pique her interest, including baking.

"During treatment I hit an all-time low. I found a cake recipe and having only ever baked one cake with a good friend of mine - who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, Major Sean Birchall - I thought it would be a good time to start again and do something productive whilst at home.

"I organised a Great Pink Bake Off in 2013, which raised over £1,300 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer as a direct result of teaching myself to bake!"

Jane attended a week long workshop at the London Academy of the Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) as part of Bravo 22 Company.

The course covered a variety of subjects, including experimenting with different pieces of equipment, such as a mixing desk.

As the week progressed Jane decided she was best suited to stage management.

A tutor goes through the elements of lighting with Jane.

At the end of the workshops Jane joined the rest of the Bravo 22 cast at the Aylesbury Waterside theatre prior to the first performance of their new play 'Contact'.

The cast warm up session before performing their rehearsal to local school children from Aylesbury.

During the first full rehearsal of the new production 'Contact' at the Aylesbury Waterside theatre Jane takes her position as the Acting Stage Manager.

Being aware of the running order is essential and also communicating with the stage manager as the play progresses.

Working in the shadows behind the stage, Jane's job is to get the cast on and off the stage on cue and to hand them the right prop for each scene.

"It's great fun being part of a unique team, and learning how much goes on behind the scenes!"

All photos copyright to The Royal British Legion / Alison Baskerville.

Bravo 22 Company is The Royal British Legion's Recovery through Theatre Programme. 'Contact' is the end product of a regional pilot of this programme at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Buckinghamshire. It was open to all wounded, injured and sick Service personnel based in the area and extended to include the Legion's wider beneficiary community of veterans, reservists and family members (over 18). The programme aims to give members of the Armed Forces Community the opportunity to have their voices heard, and talk about life in the Armed Forces and their transition and integration into civilian life. The next programme will be in Plymouth.

Related Stories