Now his final handwritten letters feature in a haunting new book which captures the true horror of war and offers a glimpse into the mindset of soldiers.
"All I wanna say is how much I loved you and cared for you. You are the apple of my eye and I will be watching over you always."
"They all tell a story and I have massive respect.
"But the part we've chosen to publish is how he felt about the army and what he wanted people to know. He didn't want us to be sad, and he didn't want us to be mad at the army.
Guardsman Neil 'Tony' Downes died aged 20 after a landmine exploded under his patrol vehicle in Afghanistan.
In a final letter to his parents, Guardsman Downes wrote: "Well I guess by now you have heard the good news. I am up in heaven now with granddad and nana sure they are stopping me pulling the birds.
published as some of it was private and personal to us.
"Celebrate my life because I love you and I will see you all again."
Known to his family as Tony, Guardsman Downes was with the First Battalion, The Grenadier Guards, when he was fatally injured by a roadside bomb in Helmand Province in 2007.
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write in the first instance to: Rob Irvine, editor, Manchester Evening News, Mitchell Henry House, Hollinwood Avenue, Chadderton, Oldham OL9 8EP.
Guardsman Downes, like many soldiers, had written letters to his loved ones which were only to be opened in case he died.
Sian, who searched archives and war records to compile the accounts, said: "I have included letters from different sides, different nationalities and different ranks. A lot of the letters are bequeathed by families to archives or handed down by generations as precious heirlooms.
The contents of a letter he wrote to his girlfriend, Jane Little, is also featured in the book.
He lived with his mother and father, Sheryl and Ronnie, at the King's Head pub in Droylsden.
Sheryl added: "To be honest, I didn't read my letter straight away like my husband did, it took me quite a few days. It includes more than 80 letters spanning conflicts over 300 years.
"They Nike Air Force 1 Flyknit were his words and we're following his wishes. Although we can't help being sad, we're not mad with the army."
"Well don't be mad, don't be sad. I died doing what I had to do and that was serving Air Force White High Top
The letters have been published with the consent of Guardsman Downes' family.
He thanks her family for their support and writes to her: "Hey beautiful! I'm sorry I had to put you through all this, darling. I'm truly sorry. Just thought I'll leave you with a last few words.
The moving final letters home of a Tameside soldier killed in combat feature in a new book.
He signs off with a joke, saying: "Bet now my bloody lottery numbers will come up, ha ha!"
Guardsman Downes' mother, Sheryl, said: "Not all my letter has been Air Force 1 Nike Low
Last letters of love sent by soldier killed in Afghanistan are published in poignant book
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