Ambushed Our War


Ambushed

The story of a group of friends from 3 Platoon, 1 Royal Anglian, who were sent to Helmand province in 2007 and filmed on a helmet camera by the platoon's sergeant.


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Transcript


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This programme contains very strong language

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and scenes which some viewers may find disturbing.

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"Dear Mrs Gray,

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"My name is Bjorn Rose and I was your son Chris's Platoon Commander.

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"I was leading the platoon on the day that he was killed

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"and was with him seconds after he was hit by that fateful bullet.

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"What I wanted to do was explain to you what had happened and try to help you

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"understand the circumstances surrounding his death."

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SHOUTING

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"Please be aware I am going to tell you everything

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"in as much detail as possible,

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"so if you feel you cannot read this yet then perhaps save it for a day that you feel stronger.

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"I am ultimately responsible for the lives of the men in my platoon,

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"and I feel it is my duty to tell you how it was that day."

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No modern conflict has been recorded like the one in Afghanistan.

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Young soldiers take their own cameras to the front line

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and film the war as only they can see it.

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This, ladies and gentlemen, is fucking war!

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Fuck me!

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-EXPLOSION

-Afghan camera. I'm here with the Sergeant Major.

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I've been fucking smacked in the eye by shrapnel.

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At the moment, fucking Afghans are fucking all around us.

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We're just firing everything we've got.

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The cameras the soldiers use can go anywhere,

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and once set recording can easily be forgotten.

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Pull back!

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This war has been fought for ten years,

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and thousands of hours of this uncensored footage

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has been held by the Ministry of Defence.

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Die, motherfucker!

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Now, the MoD and the young soldiers

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have allowed us to use that footage to tell their extraordinary stories.

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RADIO CRACKLES

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Any last words for your bird?

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GUNFIRE

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This is the story of a close-knit group of friends

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led into battle by Lieutenant Bjorn Rose in the summer of 2007.

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By the end of their tour, one would be dead and others injured

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in what would become the defining summer of their lives.

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On March 25th 2007, 600 men from the 1 Royal Anglian Regiment

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waited to board a flight to Afghanistan.

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Among them was Platoon Sergeant Simon Panter,

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a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

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He filmed the whole six-month tour.

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'We knew that it was going to be a tough, tough tour.

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'The information we were given -

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'expect a fight with the Taliban.'

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Chose to film it, you know, to look back on in years to come.

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You know, a bit of posterity, history.

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When I'm getting old and grey, sitting in my wheelchair,

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sit back and have a laugh.

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That's us now boarding the flight off...

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Take us to Kandahar on Op Herrick 6.

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-PILOT:

-..seat in front of you. As a reminder,

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you will require your helmet and body armour available for the descent into Kandahar.

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With Sergeant Panter on the plane were the soldiers of his platoon.

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3 Platoon were a group of 19 young men.

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Most had never been to a war zone before.

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'We were all quite young so... It's not that we didn't take it seriously,

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'but none of us knew really what to expect.'

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Afghan wasn't really a big thing then, it was all still Iraq.

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It was like, "I'm going to Afghan, and they're like, "OK, cool."

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No-one thought anything about it.

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I remember my Section Commander calling me up to the office

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and I'm thinking, "What have I done wrong now?"

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So he called me and he says, "Do you want to go to Afghanistan?"

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First I'm like, "Scuse me?"

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And then the first thing that came out of my mouth was "Yes!" I were excited.

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It took 3 Platoon almost two weeks to reach the front line.

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First there was an eight-hour flight to Kandahar.

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'When you step off the plane,'

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that's when it just feels reality.

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You're like, I'm here for six months.

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Is it going to be a long one?

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Or is it going to go quick?

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3 Platoon travelled to

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their first Combat Outpost, or COP, by Chinook helicopter.

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You're looking out the windows, you're feeling it, you're nervous,

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your heart's pumping, you're sweating, really hot.

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Flying over desert, thinking are we going to get RPG-ed here?

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Is the enemy in the mountains?

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Although they'd trained together in Kenya, they'd never fought together...

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and they had a new lieutenant, Bjorn Rose.

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'I joined A Company, 1 Royal Anglian, in January 2007.'

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The platoon I found was a mix of

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people who had operational experience,

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so people who had been away to Iraq 18 months previously,

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but also a lot of boys.

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I say boys because they WERE boys.

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Sort of 18, 19-year-olds who had literally just come out of training

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and were joining the battalion for their first tour.

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'It was a fixed platoon. No-one new coming in very often'

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and no-one leaving the platoon.

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So we all worked together loads on exercises,

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on all the live fire shoots we did.

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So it was a very close-knit platoon.

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'Matthew Duffy, he was a bloke who I went through training with.'

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He's a great laugh, can be very immature at times.

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'Stringer's a good bloke. Don't know if he liked me to begin with.'

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I asked him if his mum knew he was there.

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And I don't think he appreciated that.

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'Duffy at that time was in a clique'

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with some other soldiers -

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Private Croft, who looked about 12,

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Private Chris Gray, who was only 19

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and yet I think he was quite mature for his age.

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As a soldier, Chris Gray was very professional.

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He probably loved it a bit too much, actually. Very keen.

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His kit had to be perfect.

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WOMAN: He had a thing about guns, Christopher did.

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Even from a young age it was every toy, "Can I have a gun?"

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That's all he ever said.

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And I said when he was little, he's either going to be a mass murderer

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or he's going to join the Army.

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It had to be one or the other. I'm glad it was the Army.

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Well, no, I'm not glad it was the Army.

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But I wouldn't want him to be a mass murderer either.

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After a 20-minute flight,

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3 Platoon were dropped on the outskirts of a town called Now Zad.

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"You're running off thinking what's happening, what's happening?"

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There's dust everywhere, you can't see or hear anything

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because of the helicopter. And the helicopter sets off.

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And you're lying there and all the dust then settles. And you're looking around, wow.

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Home for the next two months was this fortified compound,

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a disused town hall.

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The troops that had been here previously had come under intense attack by the Taliban.

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Int cell.

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This is where they do all the analysis.

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It's the hub of the intelligence world within Now Zad.

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We also give briefings in here, but it's very hot and sweaty so I don't like it.

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The spike that's come through the ceiling, that's where they put the flag pole up

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and didn't quite realise how thin the roof was.

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The whole place is falling down, really. This here, I like this bit.

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This is when the Fusiliers were here, spray of blood in the corner. Excellent.

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I couldn't believe it, all these houses were made out of mud huts.

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You know. It was quite amazing how small they actually are.

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With the doors, as you go in you have to bend down,

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which was quite annoying, especially with kit.

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You were literally living in what seemed like a dusty cave.

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You spent a lot of your time just making it a bit more comfortable, a bit more homely.

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3 Platoon's new home was a long way from anywhere

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and in the middle of enemy territory.

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It would take reinforcements at least 20 minutes to get there

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if they came under attack.

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Now Zad sits in a valley bowl

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surrounded by mountains that go up to about 2,000 metres.

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It was surrounded by a cluster of small villages

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that were known to be occupied by the Taliban.

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The Gurkhas had occupied this District Centre,

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had found themselves surrounded and under siege

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and the situation had developed to the point

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where there was a status quo established in Now Zad,

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where they were in the District Centre

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and the Taliban were over a dry wadi, a dry river bed,

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on the other half of the town.

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So we were there essentially

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just to make sure that the status quo remained the same.

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The only thing we really controlled was about 500 metres

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around where we found ourselves in the District Centre.

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And that's the situation that we took over.

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The conflict that had brought 3 Platoon 3,500 miles

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to this remote outpost

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was sparked by events one Tuesday morning six years earlier.

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-TV:

-In the past few minutes, a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

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-TV:

-..a cloud of grey smoke coming from the top of it,

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and now, in the last 30 seconds, another explosion...

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On September 11th 2001,

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the world watched in horror as hijacked airliners

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were deliberately crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York

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and the American military headquarters -

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the Pentagon in Washington DC.

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-TV:

-So this looks like, frankly, the largest terrorist operation we've probably ever seen on the planet.

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I was on the school bus on the way back,

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and, literally just pulled up outside my house,

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and I think the bus driver said, "Make sure you check the news, the twin towers have been hit."

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And I remember thinking, what are the twin towers? Didn't have a clue.

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I was at school at the time.

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I didn't really think much of it, to be honest,

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it's just something that happened in America to me.

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My mother was watching the news

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when I got home and she said, "Look at that," and I was like, "Whoa..."

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Big explosions and stuff.

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I was only 14, at school.

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Didn't really have much on my mind at all.

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Within days the men behind the attacks were identified as Al-Qaeda -

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an ultra-Islamist terrorist network run by Osama Bin Laden.

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UNTRANSLATED

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Everyone knew that Bin Laden and his men were being protected by the Taliban,

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who'd seized power in Afghanistan.

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Bin Laden became the world's most wanted man.

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Tonight, the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban.

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Deliver to United States authorities

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all the leaders of Al-Qaeda who hide in your land.

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Within a month, war was declared.

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The Taliban were swept aside, Allied forces claimed victory.

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But Bin Laden was nowhere to be found.

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OK, this is the mouse hole that goes through to the back gate, which is there.

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It comes through into this compound, there's another mouse hole there.

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There's also another mouse hole going through there...

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Back in Now Zad, 3 Platoon were settling into the COP

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and discovering just how smart the enemy was.

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The whole outpost was riddled with a network of firing points and tunnels

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from where the Taliban could spy or attack.

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GUNFIRE

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It's so easy for them to get so close to camp.

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You're lying in bed thinking, is tonight the night?

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Are they going to come? What's going to come through that wall? Are they going to explode through my bedroom?

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For the first three, four weeks I'd sleep with my weapon

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always there on my bed, looking at this wall thinking,

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if they're going to come through, they're going to come through there.

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This is a pucker's ambush location, isn't it?

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They've got another firing arm just down there, another one there,

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three of the fuckers here.

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One by one, Bjorn and his men laid mines to blow up the hundreds of walls and ambush points.

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It took a week to secure the base.

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Right, are you turning off your radio, or not?

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I'll get behind that wall and stay there.

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OK. I'm going back.

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When we started doing a few more patrols and started getting used to it,

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things started getting a bit more comfortable.

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Duffy, instead of looking down at the ground,

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where should you be looking?

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Right, let's fucking do it.

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Everything didn't seem completely different in very...

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It's like you're actually there.

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To begin with it's like you're watching somebody else do it.

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It's very abstract, if you know what I mean.

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But then, yeah, you get comfortable when you get into a routine.

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-Stay down!

-Stay down!

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-Dom.

-Yeah?

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-Coming out.

-MAN LAUGHS

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That was half a barmine...!

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-That's half!

-Shit!

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Fuckin' hell!

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-And that's half.

-That's half a barmine.

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3 Platoon continued their work

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and it became clear that an enemy that was apparently defeated in 2001

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was still very much a threat.

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REPORTER: 'Royal Marines and engineers surveying how to begin the task of reconstruction.'

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In the two years after victory was declared, the allies set about rebuilding Afghanistan.

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Big plans were made and money was promised.

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But then the West's war on terror switched to a new target.

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Britain and America committed massive resources to the Iraq war,

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that rapidly spiralled out of control.

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Iraqi insurgency was born, and they fought back in any way they could.

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Holy shit!

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All this took everyone's eyes off Afghanistan.

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Quietly, the Taliban were watching and learning from what was happening in Iraq.

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Videos were produced showing the best ways to kill British troops

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and more and more young men were joining the fight against the West.

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And then, on 28th January, 2004,

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the first British soldier died at the hands of the enemy.

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The Taliban was back and ready to fight.

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With the perimeter of their base secured,

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3 Platoon were able to push out into the old town

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for their first patrol.

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I was quite nervous.

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It was, like, a Taliban training camp.

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Just walking around is proper eerie.

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The town, when we occupied it, was deserted -

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there was nobody there at all.

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All the civilians had moved out because of the fighting.

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Literally, you imagine some sort of Spaghetti Western.

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You know, there was a main drag

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and it was tumbleweed going down, shutters flapping.

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It was eerie, really eerie. There was nothing there.

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Like a ghost town, innit, Clarky?

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Madness.

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To be totally honest, first patrol,

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I was actually kind of shitting myself,

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cos I didn't know what to expect.

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It was my first patrol on my first tour.

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Every little bang and stuff you'd look, you'd jump,

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and have a look, see what it was.

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It was only about an hour and a half long, if that. Just a satellite patrol.

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I remember when I first walked out and thinking,

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"Cor, it's like being in Norwich."

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It was just weird seeing it not be lived in.

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It was like it wasn't real, like it was a film set or something.

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And you were a bit, "What was that?"

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A bit jumpy.

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Go on, then. Here you go.

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"I'm not sure if Chris informed you of where he was or what it is like.

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"I thought it might help if I painted a picture of the town in which he found himself.

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"Now Zad is the northernmost town that we have British troops in Helmand Province.

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"It boasts one of the only metalled roads

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"that runs through the district centre.

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"It was on this road

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"that all the shops from the old bazaar were located.

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"In happier times these were thriving

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"with people selling all their local produce

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"they had harvested from the surrounding fields.

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"Today the town is utterly deserted,

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"the old bazaar a bombed-out ghost town.

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"It's deserted

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"because it had been the centre of intense fighting on and off

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"since last 2006."

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-REPORTER:

-'This is the centre of Now Zad town

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'the aftermath of a bombing raid

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'called in by British forces.

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"Chris may have said

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"that until the 13th of April, Now Zad had been very quiet for us.

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"Not a single shot had been fired in anger.

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"We'd all begun to think that the Taliban were a myth.

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OK, it's recording now.

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It's all going to go!

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INDISTINCT SPEECH OFF-CAMERA

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Fuckin' hell!

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'After two weeks of patrolling in Now Zad,

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'getting familiar with the area, testing our weapon systems,

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'feeling confident and acclimatised in the country,'

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Major Biddick decided that... he would shatter the calm.

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Major Dom Biddick,

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the Officer Commanding the Royal Anglians in Now Zad,

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was a former intelligence officer

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who had served in Afghanistan twice before.

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His task was to implement a new strategy for the British Army.

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Take the fight to the enemy.

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The operation on Friday the 13th

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was to clear an area called Sorkani,

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which was an area to the east of the district centre, where we were based.

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It was an area where we knew there was a Taliban stronghold, basically,

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so it was about getting on the front foot, letting them know

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that they were no longer going to be able to feel secure and unmolested in that area.

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At the end of the day, we was out there to get rid of the Taliban,

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and if we had to go and find them, we had to go and find them to do that

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and upset their little apple cart, and upset the way they live

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and let them know that we are here

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and we are here to stay.

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We were all in the wadi, formed up,

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ready to cross the line of departure at dawn.

0:20:210:20:24

At the back of all the soldiers' minds they're thinking,

0:20:240:20:27

you know, "This is it. We're crossing the wadi,

0:20:270:20:29

"we're going into Taliban-held area

0:20:290:20:31

"and the likelihood is we're going to get in a scrap,"

0:20:310:20:34

and they were all up for it.

0:20:340:20:35

Candid Camera, you're on.

0:20:380:20:39

The plan was for Platoons 1, 2 and 3 to move through Sorkani house by house

0:20:410:20:46

until it was clear of Taliban fighters, weapons and firing points.

0:20:460:20:51

The town was dead once we'd crossed the wadi, there was no-one there.

0:20:530:20:57

I think Stringer, he saw a little boy run off as soon as they saw us.

0:20:570:21:00

Didn't think nothing of it.

0:21:000:21:04

There's, like, fires that had been put out, so there'd been people there

0:21:040:21:08

as we'd been moving up.

0:21:080:21:10

It was like we knew something was about to happen, but we didn't know when.

0:21:100:21:14

51, on me.

0:21:140:21:16

We were conscious of the fact that the Taliban had been talking on the radio,

0:21:210:21:26

and we could intercept their radio communications and we could hear what they were saying,

0:21:260:21:30

and they gradually became aware as the sun came up that we were there in Sorkani,

0:21:300:21:35

and the essence of what we got from their radio messages

0:21:350:21:39

was that we'd stirred up the hornet's nest a little bit.

0:21:390:21:42

After four hours of clearing, the troops had found nothing

0:21:460:21:49

and Number 1 Platoon had reached the edge of the village.

0:21:490:21:54

We knew that this was actually a point of high risk,

0:21:540:21:57

not least cos it put us at the greatest distance from our base

0:21:570:22:00

and the greatest proximity to the enemy.

0:22:000:22:03

It was a bit of a pause, because we knew it was a delicate time in the operation.

0:22:030:22:06

The order was going to get called to withdraw back.

0:22:060:22:10

We've now cleared through, we've found nothing and we're thinking,

0:22:100:22:14

wrong, why is there nowt here?

0:22:140:22:16

It came on the radio we were going to withdraw.

0:22:160:22:19

As soon as that happened, I remember just a world of fire came down.

0:22:190:22:23

EXPLOSION, RAPID GUNFIRE

0:22:230:22:25

1 Platoon had walked into an ambush.

0:22:250:22:28

There was an almighty eruption of fire from our north,

0:22:320:22:36

where we knew 1 Platoon were.

0:22:360:22:37

And when I say an almighty eruption of fire, it was a coordinated ambush.

0:22:370:22:43

-Is that 51 firing there?

-I don't know what it is. I think it's 51.

0:22:430:22:47

Fuck! So, what's all that, then?

0:22:470:22:50

Did they get our blue smoke, did they?

0:22:500:22:53

We're going to put another one up. Give me another smoke.

0:22:530:22:56

-This is what it's all about!

-'When we first started getting shot at,'

0:22:560:23:00

I'm like, that's got to be someone else.

0:23:000:23:02

On exercise, there's usually a lot of people cutting around on the area.

0:23:020:23:06

I was like, hold on, there's no-one else here.

0:23:060:23:08

Then I thought, hold on, I could get hit.

0:23:120:23:14

So, for some reason I tried taking cover behind some grass that I was in,

0:23:140:23:19

so I figured that really wasn't going to work, so I just sat down,

0:23:190:23:22

leaned against a wall and just waited out to be told what to do.

0:23:220:23:25

Get spread out in this fucking BUND line.

0:23:250:23:28

Get spread out.

0:23:300:23:31

I want a GPMG or a fucking LMG there.

0:23:330:23:38

I remember walking down an alleyway thinking, oh, this is brilliant, this is my first contact.

0:23:380:23:44

I remember looking at Chris Gray

0:23:440:23:45

and he did the "rock on" symbol to me, like, this is it!

0:23:450:23:48

We spoke about this for ages, what's the first contact going to be like?

0:23:480:23:51

So, I was like, yeah, rock on back.

0:23:510:23:53

BULLETS WHISTLE

0:23:530:23:55

That was coming this way, that one. That one was coming this way.

0:23:550:23:59

Right, let's go, then, boss. Lead off, boss.

0:24:040:24:07

I'll bring up the rear, let's go.

0:24:070:24:09

1 Platoon were pinned down.

0:24:090:24:12

From his position, Major Biddick spotted an immediate threat.

0:24:120:24:16

If the Taliban sent men around to the left,

0:24:160:24:19

they could cut 1 Platoon off and attack them from behind.

0:24:190:24:22

So, he ordered 3 Platoon north to stop it from happening.

0:24:220:24:26

Corporal Moore was first, he was going to lead with 1 Section,

0:24:260:24:30

and his point man was Private Chris Gray.

0:24:300:24:32

Chris Gray was one of the front two,

0:24:320:24:35

the reason being he had the light machine gun,

0:24:350:24:38

so if it did kick off, there was a heavier rate of fire

0:24:380:24:41

that could be put down straight away.

0:24:410:24:44

You and I'll cover the rear.

0:24:440:24:46

Where's Stringer? You're with me.

0:24:460:24:48

You've got the rifle, cover our fucking arse.

0:24:480:24:50

-You're last man, right.

-Will do.

0:24:500:24:52

We got told we was going to go round and try and outflank the enemy

0:24:520:24:56

and cos I was Platoon Sergeant's group,

0:24:560:24:58

Platoon Sergeant's group is generally at the rear,

0:24:580:25:01

I stayed back, the other sections went forward.

0:25:010:25:03

Right, pass it down, keep the fucking noise down now.

0:25:030:25:07

Fucking hell! Jock's just had a five-metre contact with the Taliban.

0:25:250:25:29

Corporal Jock Flight was moving through the alleyways

0:25:290:25:33

in a very similar direction to us, he was just slightly north of us.

0:25:330:25:37

And all of a sudden it came over the radio that he'd had what he called

0:25:370:25:42

a five-metre contact with the enemy,

0:25:420:25:44

which essentially means that he'd bumped into the enemy.

0:25:440:25:46

He'd walked round a corner and had a meeting engagement with them.

0:25:460:25:50

But that immediately rang alarm bells in my head

0:25:500:25:53

because as I plotted on the map where he was, and I worked out where we were

0:25:530:25:57

and I worked out the course that we were taking, would pretty much...

0:25:570:26:01

any Taliban that was fleeing from him would run into us.

0:26:010:26:05

There was a light bulb moment when I realised, we're going to run into them.

0:26:050:26:09

At the front of the platoon, Billy Moore and Chris Gray had just walked into an orchard.

0:26:110:26:17

I made the rest of the section stay back slightly,

0:26:170:26:20

stay in cover, while me and Chris went forward to clear.

0:26:200:26:24

We heard some noise and then we saw five guys walk out in front of us

0:26:240:26:28

carrying weapons and belts of ammunition strapped round them.

0:26:280:26:32

So, there was no question that they were enemy

0:26:320:26:35

and we knew what they were going to go and do, so we didn't hesitate.

0:26:350:26:39

The visibility, limited by the trees, was only about 15 metres,

0:26:390:26:42

and I can just about see the front of the platoon

0:26:420:26:44

and there was smoke coming off the guns as they started firing.

0:26:440:26:47

We dropped the enemy that was to our front, and then once we'd done that,

0:26:470:26:51

the enemy behind the wall started engaging us.

0:26:510:26:55

RAPID GUNFIRE

0:26:550:26:57

At the rear of 3 Platoon, separated by 150 metres of mud wall,

0:27:000:27:05

Sergeant Si Panter was unaware of the seriousness of the situation.

0:27:050:27:09

Get here! Get here, you cunt!

0:27:090:27:13

The bullets had started flying, there's a little bit of excitement,

0:27:130:27:16

and I was at the back - tail-end Charlie.

0:27:160:27:18

And being in contact is almost like a drug. It's good fun.

0:27:190:27:24

I know it sounds very strange, but being a soldier, there's nothing like being in contact.

0:27:240:27:30

It lets you know you're alive.

0:27:300:27:32

Let's go.

0:27:320:27:34

GUNFIRE

0:27:340:27:36

Shh!

0:27:360:27:38

We got the upper hand. I give Chris a kick on the arse and tell him to do the first bound backwards.

0:27:400:27:46

He turned, he looked at me and said, "Bill, I'm hit."

0:27:460:27:49

And then he dropped at my feet.

0:27:490:27:51

Next thing, "Man down! Man down! Man down!"

0:27:510:27:54

The whole world came down on us.

0:27:540:27:55

All I could hear was rounds going off, grenades going off.

0:27:550:27:59

As soon as we heard that, "Man down, man down!"

0:27:590:28:01

It's the worst thing you can hear as a soldier.

0:28:010:28:03

I was out there on a limb, on my own, guys were trying

0:28:030:28:07

to get forward to me, they were getting beaten back by the fire.

0:28:070:28:10

I had to do everything I could to try and get help forward.

0:28:100:28:14

That's where I dropped my rifle, picked up his

0:28:140:28:17

light machine gun, and I just basically sprayed

0:28:170:28:21

the general direction where the enemy fire was coming from.

0:28:210:28:24

GUNFIRE

0:28:240:28:26

Keep fucking facing rear!

0:28:290:28:32

And you.

0:28:330:28:35

'The drill is that when somebody says "man down"

0:28:360:28:39

'because there's a casualty,

0:28:390:28:40

'it should be said by every man in the platoon until it reaches the Platoon Sergeant'

0:28:400:28:44

at the back of the platoon.

0:28:440:28:46

And I heard "man down" and I thought, "No".

0:28:480:28:52

And it got shouted all along, it got to me and I didn't say it.

0:28:520:28:56

And I was in denial and I thought, "No, this isn't happening."

0:28:560:29:00

And I thought, "No, there's been a mistake."

0:29:000:29:02

And then I heard it again, more urgently this time. "Man Down!"

0:29:020:29:06

From the front, it got all the way up to me again and I thought,

0:29:060:29:08

I've got to say it. I said, "Man down!" I was like, "Right, this is it."

0:29:080:29:12

You know, what is going on here?

0:29:120:29:14

And it continued down the line towards Sergeant Panter.

0:29:140:29:17

-Man down!

-Where?

0:29:200:29:23

Where, where, where, where, where?

0:29:230:29:25

-Where is he?!

-Straight down.

0:29:290:29:32

Two of you, come with me!

0:29:330:29:35

'What I'm supposed to do as Platoon Sergeant in a contact when we have a man down, is wait at the rear,'

0:29:350:29:42

-'get the guys in all round defence and wait for the section to bring the casualty to me.'

-Man down!

0:29:420:29:48

-Who is it?

-I don't know yet!

0:29:480:29:52

On this occasion,

0:29:520:29:54

it sort of... I was blinkered and just thought, "Man down, blimey. Go."

0:29:540:30:00

Get him to me now!

0:30:000:30:01

Eventually I got level with Corporal Moore at the front of the platoon,

0:30:070:30:11

and I said, "What's going on?"

0:30:110:30:12

And he said, "I've got a man down."

0:30:120:30:14

And I said, "Who is it?" And he said, "It's Gray."

0:30:140:30:17

And before I had a chance to do anything else, he

0:30:170:30:20

pulled the pin out of a grenade and he threw the grenade to the front.

0:30:200:30:24

EXPLOSION

0:30:240:30:26

In the confusion, Panter thought the fire could be 1 Platoon.

0:30:260:30:29

Stop firing!

0:30:290:30:31

-There's enemy down there!

-It's not enemy, it's blue!

0:30:310:30:35

-It's enemy.

-Go!

0:30:350:30:40

Oy, go! Scrivener, Simmo, get the casualty to me now.

0:30:400:30:43

When I got there he was lying on his face and I was like...

0:30:460:30:48

I saw loads of blood on his arm.

0:30:480:30:51

I was like, "Who is it?"

0:30:510:30:53

For some reason, because I didn't recognise him. I clocked who it was.

0:30:530:30:57

So I started trying to pick him up and that.

0:30:570:30:59

As I moved, a massive rate of fire came down.

0:30:590:31:02

Same thing we do, you see enemy moving, you give a massive rate of fire.

0:31:020:31:05

So they could see us, but it was so frustrating, we could not see them.

0:31:050:31:09

GUNFIRE

0:31:090:31:12

In the process of that,

0:31:120:31:15

it was complete chaos. I heard Corporal Moore say to me,

0:31:150:31:18

"Boss, I've been hit."

0:31:180:31:20

I'm hit! I'm hit! I'm hit! I'm hit!

0:31:210:31:23

Go, back! Get back!

0:31:260:31:28

Get down! Boss! Get me that casualty now!

0:31:330:31:37

I bumped into Billy Moore, and he'd been hit in the arm.

0:31:370:31:40

And I thought, "Oh..." I know it's bad to say, sort of...

0:31:400:31:43

I thought, "Oh, thank God this is just the casualty.

0:31:430:31:46

"It's just a gunshot wound to the arm." I was a team medic at the time.

0:31:460:31:50

So I just thought I'd FFD in his arm, put the field dressings on.

0:31:500:31:53

The wound was so big that the first FFD I put on had slipped inside.

0:31:530:31:57

So I then had to get my fingers inside and pull this FFD out and it

0:31:570:32:01

was like, "Oh, that's a bit disgusting."

0:32:010:32:03

But Billy Moore was not the only casualty.

0:32:030:32:07

Go on, two of you, get this casualty back now!

0:32:080:32:11

Get him up! Pick him up, you cunts!

0:32:150:32:17

Get his kit off him.

0:32:170:32:21

Get it off of him.

0:32:210:32:23

Get it off of him!

0:32:250:32:26

No movement, his eyes were open at the time and they were just lifeless at the time.

0:32:370:32:44

My initial concern that he was dead.

0:32:440:32:48

-He's gone.

-No, he's alive.

0:32:550:32:59

Right, get him back. Get him back.

0:32:590:33:02

Get him back! Leave his kit, get him back!

0:33:020:33:04

'I pushed back and I started sending a radio message to the Company

0:33:060:33:09

'Commander, letting him know what had happened and that we had a casualty.'

0:33:090:33:13

And when it came to the part of the report that you send where you say what state the casualty's in,

0:33:130:33:20

I was... I hesitated. I wasn't sure what to say.

0:33:200:33:24

And I kept shouting over to Sergeant Panter who was about ten metres away from me, I kept saying, "What is he?

0:33:240:33:30

"Is he... Is he T4?"

0:33:300:33:32

And T4 is a designation you give to someone who's been killed, to someone who's dead.

0:33:320:33:36

No, wait!

0:33:400:33:41

Do not send that yet!

0:33:410:33:43

I was like, "Don't send that.

0:33:430:33:44

"He isn't dead yet."

0:33:440:33:46

"Send it as a T1, a priority one casualty."

0:33:460:33:49

So yeah, I did get a little bit cross then, cos I was thinking, "We don't want to have

0:33:490:33:53

"a dead soldier, he's not dead, we're going to try and save his life."

0:33:530:33:56

In the immediate moments hearing there was a casualty, we actually

0:33:560:33:59

continued prosecuting the contact.

0:33:590:34:01

So for me and for over two-thirds of the company,

0:34:010:34:06

nothing changed in that first instance when Private Gray was shot.

0:34:060:34:11

But an element of his platoon immediately focused on the casualty evacuation, began to relay the

0:34:110:34:15

information about what had happened back to the headquarters, who then started triggering the

0:34:150:34:19

casualty evacuation response from the main UK base in Camp Bastion.

0:34:190:34:23

We've got a T1 in Now Zad, we're still waiting for the nine-liner to come in.

0:34:240:34:29

Currently don't have an LS grid. Details to follow on the nine-liner.

0:34:290:34:35

-You firing up, Pete?

-Jules, we're going to go low-level the whole way.

0:34:350:34:39

By coincidence, a BBC documentary crew were

0:34:440:34:47

filming the Chinook pilot when the call from Now Zad was received.

0:34:470:34:51

They kept filming as he headed into the desert.

0:34:570:35:01

The intelligence reports made it very clear that it was a very hostile area.

0:35:020:35:07

But there's going to be a damn good reason why you're strapping into an

0:35:070:35:11

aircraft and about to fly into a particularly dangerous area.

0:35:110:35:14

And that's because somebody on the ground needs you there and needs you there now.

0:35:140:35:18

Put him on the stretcher!

0:35:240:35:27

Get him back.

0:35:270:35:29

Right, let's do it here. Stop! Stop!

0:35:290:35:31

Get the fucking shit on him now.

0:35:360:35:38

Get the stuff on him. Get the team medic pack, let's go.

0:35:380:35:41

Eight minutes had passed since Chris Gray was shot.

0:35:410:35:43

Duffy, the team medic, arrived to help.

0:35:430:35:46

Where's he been hit?

0:35:460:35:48

The back, exit wound to the front.

0:35:480:35:50

'Duffy was instrumental in treating the casualty.'

0:35:500:35:54

He was very calm.

0:35:540:35:56

Bear in mind that the casualty was his best friend in the platoon.

0:35:560:36:00

He kept talking to Chris and he identified the wound.

0:36:000:36:05

Come on, Gray, keep fucking with it.

0:36:050:36:07

Get him on his side. Right, get me the fucking FFD!

0:36:070:36:11

-Give me another FFD. Get this FFD on him now.

-'It was a tiny wound.

0:36:110:36:14

'There's a little curve in the Osprey body armour, that's where he got shot.'

0:36:140:36:17

I remember thinking, Friday the 13th,

0:36:170:36:19

and I thought at the time, "What a day to go out."

0:36:190:36:22

How unlucky is this? Literally in the curve of the body armour.

0:36:220:36:25

Is he breathing? Get some breath into him. Gray!

0:36:250:36:29

Gray! Gray!

0:36:290:36:32

The Platoon Sergeant was giving mouth-to-mouth to Private Chris Gray.

0:36:350:36:39

I remember him turning round going, "No, no, he's alive! He's alive!"

0:36:390:36:42

He's still alive! He's still alive! He's still alive.

0:36:420:36:45

We need a casevac now!

0:36:450:36:49

It was the first time I've ever done that.

0:36:490:36:53

How does it feel? I don't know.

0:36:530:36:56

At the time, I was just doing my job trying to save his life,

0:36:560:36:59

I didn't think about it.

0:36:590:37:01

Didn't think about it at all.

0:37:010:37:03

I just got on with it.

0:37:030:37:04

He's not losing a lot of blood, he's got a shallow, weak pulse but

0:37:040:37:09

-he has got one.

-Get that stretcher sorted now. Get him up.

0:37:090:37:13

We hadn't really practised getting people on a stretcher yet.

0:37:130:37:17

So while we were doing it, we were trying to pick him up,

0:37:170:37:20

moving him around and that but we couldn't get him to stay on.

0:37:200:37:23

It was a nightmare, to be honest.

0:37:230:37:26

Get him on that stretcher properly, get him on that stretcher now!

0:37:260:37:29

-Let's get him on the stretcher properly!

-Four of you.

0:37:290:37:32

Oy! I want one of your men, now!

0:37:320:37:35

Get him on that... If he dies because of you three, I'm going to fucking hate you forever.

0:37:350:37:39

-Now, get him on there.

-Let's fucking go!

0:37:390:37:42

I don't know whether it's because of the situation

0:37:420:37:44

and having a guy that's unconscious or possibly dead in front of you.

0:37:440:37:48

What was obviously going round.

0:37:480:37:50

Because it's unnatural to do that.

0:37:500:37:52

They weren't really responding so I was getting a little bit pissed off.

0:37:520:37:56

It just wasn't happening. Then we started to panic a bit, yeah.

0:37:560:38:00

Get him on that stretcher. Four, there's the handles! Use four handles.

0:38:000:38:04

Get up there, get up there!

0:38:040:38:06

Let's go!

0:38:060:38:07

-You know where you're going.

-'Very, very difficult.

0:38:100:38:13

'The lightweight stretcher we had at that time was an improvised one.

0:38:130:38:16

'We were using a hammock, which dual role is to act as a stretcher.

0:38:160:38:20

'But the straps on the hammock meant that they trailed behind the casualty.

0:38:200:38:26

'And every now and again somebody would step on them,

0:38:260:38:29

'and it would yank a side off the sheet that the casualty was on and he would slide off.'

0:38:290:38:36

Get him in it! Two at the front, two at the back!

0:38:360:38:39

Get him in it! Get him in it!

0:38:390:38:43

-Someone get him up! So we can go again.

-OK, let's go!

-Just go!

0:38:430:38:47

'Everybody was conscious of the fact

0:38:470:38:49

'the speed at which they moved would dictate whether he lived or died.'

0:38:490:38:54

Come on, men. It's life and death.

0:38:560:38:58

Let's get him going, do not walk!

0:38:580:39:01

Let's go.

0:39:010:39:03

'After we'd gone through all the little alleyways and the difficulty...

0:39:030:39:08

'it was like when the guys saw the Company Sergeant Major,

0:39:080:39:11

'Kev Maine, there with the medic and his driver, it was like the guys relaxed - "We've got him there."

0:39:110:39:16

And just put him down five metres away from the Pinzgauer and started walking off.

0:39:160:39:21

Get him on! Get him on the fucking Pinz!

0:39:210:39:25

NOW! YOU, YOU FUCKING LEAVE HIM!

0:39:250:39:30

-Sarge, sorry Sarge.

-I want him!

0:39:300:39:32

He's still there, I want him!

0:39:320:39:35

-You all right, Billy?

-Yeah, I'm fine.

-Do you need morphine?

0:39:360:39:39

No, I'm fine. It's just going on now, it's all right.

0:39:390:39:42

My attitude was, I wasn't that bad, I'd got a hole in my arm, so what?

0:39:430:39:47

I can still command my guys back.

0:39:470:39:50

I've got one guy who's been seriously wounded, I don't want any more going back the same way.

0:39:500:39:55

So I just wanted to command those guys back into safety.

0:39:550:39:58

Get me that fucking body armour out now.

0:39:580:40:01

How the fuck did it go through?

0:40:060:40:07

-Where did it go through?

-There.

-Fucking hell.

0:40:090:40:13

Through there and out there.

0:40:130:40:16

-Went through the side, went behind the plate.

-Went through the side?

0:40:160:40:20

I can't believe that.

0:40:220:40:24

They're shaking out. One Section down here, Two Section down here. OK?

0:40:240:40:28

Just balance ourselves to extract, ensure we've got all the blokes and we're good. All right?

0:40:280:40:33

There was nothing to say that we

0:40:330:40:34

weren't going to continue the clearance.

0:40:340:40:37

There was nothing to say that we weren't going to be

0:40:370:40:39

committed to battle again.

0:40:390:40:40

As commander, I needed to make sure the platoon was ready to do that.

0:40:400:40:43

They all had the 1,000 yard stare on and they

0:40:430:40:46

were all thinking about what had just happened.

0:40:460:40:48

So I was walking along saying, "Are you all right?

0:40:480:40:50

"Are you all right?"

0:40:500:40:52

-You all right?

-'And Sergeant Panter did the same.

0:40:520:40:55

'So it was very sort of cold and hard-nosed, but that's what needed to be done.'

0:40:550:41:01

You all right? Oy. Get that fucking gun deployed so if they fucking come you can fire straight away.

0:41:010:41:07

Can you fire straight away? Right, let's hurry up then.

0:41:070:41:11

There was a bit of a sense of relief cos we'd got Chris back

0:41:110:41:15

and he was back with the doctors

0:41:150:41:17

and on his way to Bastion, so in that, a sense of relief just

0:41:170:41:21

because we knew he was getting back and at the time he was still alive, or we thought he was still alive.

0:41:210:41:27

So yeah, there was hope.

0:41:270:41:29

Hope and relief.

0:41:290:41:31

From the moment the call came in,

0:41:370:41:40

and certainly doing the speeds that we were,

0:41:400:41:42

flying the aircraft literally as fast as it would go,

0:41:420:41:45

it couldn't have taken more than 20 minutes to get there.

0:41:450:41:48

40, 50, 60...

0:42:080:42:11

Yeah, I've got grid references.

0:42:130:42:15

SPEECH DROWNED OUT BY HELICOPTER

0:42:170:42:19

-How's the guy doing down the back? Is he still holding in?

-They're doing CPR.

0:42:270:42:30

OK.

0:42:300:42:32

A quick question for the medics, don't answer me if you're busy.

0:42:360:42:39

-If we have a problem with the cab would you rather go smooth and slow or fast and...

-Fast.

-OK.

0:42:390:42:46

When you do your first casualty evacuation,

0:43:030:43:05

you know that it's an emotional thing,

0:43:050:43:08

but you are also aware that there's a war going on

0:43:080:43:11

and that's what happens in war.

0:43:110:43:13

By the time you've seen your first ten,

0:43:150:43:17

you're sort of getting used to it.

0:43:170:43:19

By the time you've seen however many I've got to see...

0:43:210:43:27

You... I think the danger is

0:43:270:43:29

you either become complacent and it becomes normal-place,

0:43:290:43:32

or it starts to weigh in the back of your mind.

0:43:320:43:36

Once we'd picked Private Gray up,

0:43:370:43:40

there was just something where it reached a level

0:43:400:43:43

whereby I couldn't really cope with it any more.

0:43:430:43:46

OK, popped the breaks on. Clear ramp, clear casualty out.

0:44:010:44:05

SPEECH DROWNED OUT BY HELICOPTER

0:44:130:44:16

SPEECH DROWNED OUT BY HELICOPTER

0:44:240:44:26

Oh, shit.

0:44:310:44:33

After four hours of battle,

0:44:500:44:52

in which an estimated 22 Taliban fighters were killed,

0:44:520:44:55

Three Platoon returned to their base.

0:44:550:44:58

Once we got back into camp,

0:45:000:45:02

it was very much... then the headache started.

0:45:020:45:06

You'd been going constantly

0:45:060:45:07

and you'd taken on very little water and you hadn't eaten anything.

0:45:070:45:11

And you'd been working your body to the absolute maximum

0:45:110:45:15

and it's been running on adrenaline.

0:45:150:45:17

And then the adrenaline stops and then you get a pounding headache.

0:45:170:45:20

When I came back into the base,

0:45:200:45:24

I was told that the Commanding Officer was on the phone -

0:45:240:45:27

on the secure phone.

0:45:270:45:29

So I went straight in and took that call,

0:45:290:45:31

then he told me that Gray had died.

0:45:310:45:34

We were called together as a Company.

0:45:340:45:37

We formed a hollow square...

0:45:370:45:42

and the company commander came out, Major Dom Biddick,

0:45:420:45:45

and he said, "Gentleman, I'm sorry, Chris Gray is dead."

0:45:450:45:49

And that was it.

0:45:490:45:52

I've never felt nothing like it.

0:45:560:45:58

It's just the worst feeling you can ever imagine.

0:45:580:46:01

Yeah, I felt pretty shit, to be honest.

0:46:040:46:08

You know, lost one of my men.

0:46:080:46:10

And yeah, I didn't like it.

0:46:100:46:13

Didn't like it at all.

0:46:130:46:15

That, there and then, is when it all hit me.

0:46:190:46:23

I was like, "That actually did just happen."

0:46:230:46:27

One of my mates just got shot, killed.

0:46:270:46:29

My section commander just got shot and injured.

0:46:290:46:32

That, well....

0:46:320:46:34

And as soon as he said he'd died,

0:46:340:46:36

I kind of zoned out and that thought went through my head.

0:46:360:46:40

I was also quite frank with them.

0:46:400:46:42

I reminded them that Chris had died as the point man

0:46:420:46:45

of a section that was acting to go and support their comrades

0:46:450:46:50

in contact, in lethal danger.

0:46:500:46:52

And that if we were all hard and honest with ourselves,

0:46:520:46:55

then we knew that the possibility of death

0:46:550:46:57

was a brutal fact in Afghanistan,

0:46:570:47:02

in Helmand, in Now Zad.

0:47:020:47:04

Almost as tough as hearing Chris was dead,

0:47:060:47:10

one of the toughest things I had to do was pack his kit up and whatnot.

0:47:100:47:13

That was pretty tough, you know.

0:47:130:47:15

Get that boxed up and sent back to Bastion.

0:47:150:47:17

That was a tough old job.

0:47:170:47:19

And tough for the lads as well, the lads that helped me.

0:47:190:47:22

Duffy, Tuva and young Cowley as well, they helped me.

0:47:220:47:26

I didn't realise until about, what...

0:47:260:47:31

towards the evening,

0:47:310:47:33

that I had Chris Gray's blood on my shirt

0:47:330:47:38

where I carried his body armour.

0:47:380:47:40

And that's when it really hit me

0:47:400:47:44

and I just broke down.

0:47:440:47:47

I started crying.

0:47:470:47:49

In Leicester, Chris' family were unaware of his death.

0:48:010:48:05

Friday the 13th had started well,

0:48:050:48:08

with a letter from Afghanistan.

0:48:080:48:10

I can remember going out to see my horses in the morning

0:48:100:48:13

and this letter had come.

0:48:130:48:15

And Katie was really, really excited,

0:48:150:48:17

going on about, a letter from Chris, "Mum, look, look."

0:48:170:48:20

So we opened it and we read it.

0:48:200:48:23

"Yo, yo, from Afghanistan, Shitsville, Middle East.

0:48:230:48:27

"Hey, everyone, how's it going?

0:48:270:48:29

"All is good here. There's no need to worry, Mum.

0:48:290:48:33

"It's dead here.

0:48:330:48:36

"Fuck-all happening at the minute."

0:48:360:48:38

His language is terrible.

0:48:380:48:40

"How is everyone at home? Can't wait to get home

0:48:400:48:43

"and eat some banoffee pie."

0:48:430:48:46

He loved banoffee pie, it was his favourite.

0:48:460:48:48

Just before he went to Afghan,

0:48:480:48:52

we went shopping and him and Katie went off shopping

0:48:520:48:55

and they bought Tesco's Finest banoffee pie,

0:48:550:48:58

and it was nearly five pound - I always remember it!

0:48:580:49:02

And he ate the lot.

0:49:020:49:03

"There's a big TV and shitloads of DVDs to watch.

0:49:040:49:08

"If you're not doing shitty little jobs, the food isn't bad either.

0:49:080:49:12

"Everyone's dying to get some trigger time

0:49:120:49:15

"and razz some dirty enemy up.

0:49:150:49:17

"I'm off to get some more food.

0:49:170:49:20

"Talk to you soon. Bye."

0:49:200:49:23

I'd gone to work

0:49:260:49:28

and your mum come and fetch me from work.

0:49:280:49:32

She came in and she said,

0:49:320:49:35

"There's a man at the door from the army."

0:49:350:49:37

And I knew.

0:49:370:49:40

'Chris, look at Mummy!'

0:49:420:49:45

I wouldn't believe him at home.

0:49:480:49:51

I said he was one of them fraudsters that upset people,

0:49:510:49:55

going to people's houses and giving them bad news and it being a lie.

0:49:550:50:02

And I would not accept it at first.

0:50:020:50:05

I remember crying, screaming.

0:50:050:50:09

It's...

0:50:090:50:13

Your world falls apart.

0:50:130:50:16

Back in Now Zad,

0:50:210:50:23

the boys of Three Platoon

0:50:230:50:25

were coming to terms with their first death.

0:50:250:50:28

Are you all right, Duffy?

0:50:290:50:30

Bit fucked, are you?

0:50:300:50:32

Or not too bad?

0:50:320:50:34

The doc said that was like a 1,000 to one,

0:50:350:50:38

or a 100 million to one, that that happened.

0:50:380:50:42

That it fucking missed the plate by an inch.

0:50:430:50:46

Right, let's go, let's get out of this open area, guys.

0:50:460:50:49

Let's go. Let's move.

0:50:490:50:52

Right, let's get spread out men,

0:50:540:50:55

let's not fucking switch off, just because we're going back.

0:50:550:50:58

Let's get spread out, more chance of fucking getting hit.

0:50:580:51:01

The following day, I wrote a letter

0:51:010:51:03

because I felt it was my responsibility

0:51:030:51:07

to let the mother know what had happened.

0:51:070:51:09

Classically, a platoon commander has a responsibility, particularly when somebody dies,

0:51:090:51:14

of writing to the parents to let them know what happened.

0:51:140:51:16

I felt that that was something they deserved.

0:51:160:51:18

I didn't want to have a situation where years down the line,

0:51:180:51:21

at an inquest in England,

0:51:210:51:23

they found out piecemeal what had happened

0:51:230:51:25

and they felt that in some way the Ministry Of Defence had lied to them - that classic story from Iraq.

0:51:250:51:30

Stringer, just go over there, cover. Three three coming in.

0:51:310:51:36

Stay there, wait until we've got one more coming in.

0:51:360:51:39

At the back of my mind, I was thinking,

0:51:430:51:46

"I might be dead by the end of this tour."

0:51:460:51:49

And I thought, "If I don't do it now, it might never be said."

0:51:490:51:53

So I wrote a letter, and it was a very long letter,

0:51:530:51:56

and I sent it back through the battalion postal chain.

0:51:560:52:01

Chris was carried with difficulty to a fold in the ground, 20 metres back,

0:52:030:52:08

this is where Sergeant Simon Panter began to treat Chris

0:52:080:52:11

with the team medics Private Duffy, Tuva and Scrivener.

0:52:110:52:15

They did everything that they had been trained to do

0:52:150:52:18

and found signs of life in Chris which gave us all hope.

0:52:180:52:21

At one stage, Sergeant Panter gave mouth-to-mouth to Chris

0:52:210:52:24

to keep him breathing.

0:52:240:52:26

It would take several weeks for the letter to reach Helen

0:52:260:52:29

at her home in Leicester.

0:52:290:52:32

Chris Gray was the 53rd British soldier to be killed in Afghanistan

0:52:410:52:46

in six years of fighting.

0:52:460:52:49

In the three years that followed,

0:52:490:52:50

that figure would rise to 281.

0:52:500:52:55

Helen Gray received Chris' body a few days after his death.

0:53:060:53:10

Although she'd been assured by the army that Chris died instantly,

0:53:100:53:14

there were still many questions that only the men who fought alongside Chris could answer.

0:53:140:53:19

I just needed to know everything.

0:53:200:53:22

It was Christopher's first tour,

0:53:220:53:25

we got told he was point man - why was he point man?

0:53:250:53:28

Just so many things going round and round,

0:53:280:53:32

but because the boys were still in Afghanistan,

0:53:320:53:35

they were the people I needed to ask,

0:53:350:53:37

they were on the ground with Christopher,

0:53:370:53:40

they knew exactly what had happened,

0:53:400:53:42

and they were people I wanted to talk to.

0:53:420:53:46

But I had to wait till they came back.

0:53:460:53:48

GUNFIRE

0:53:480:53:50

The men of Three Platoon were fighting gruelling battles all over Helmand,

0:53:520:53:57

but the events of Friday the 13th were never far from their minds.

0:53:570:54:01

Enemy, enemy left.

0:54:010:54:03

We were all very...

0:54:040:54:06

aware of the fact that we performed badly

0:54:060:54:09

in that contact.

0:54:090:54:10

We've got friendlies along the front of this fucking wood line here. - tree line.

0:54:100:54:15

You're very self-critical.

0:54:150:54:16

Very self-critical when something like that happens.

0:54:160:54:19

You do reflect on it a lot.

0:54:190:54:21

Did I do this right? Did we do that right?

0:54:210:54:23

What could we have done better?

0:54:230:54:24

EXPLOSION

0:54:240:54:26

We didn't want nobody else to go

0:54:280:54:32

from our platoon,

0:54:320:54:34

from our company,

0:54:340:54:36

from our section, you know.

0:54:360:54:40

So after that day, we was like,

0:54:400:54:43

"Stop mucking around."

0:54:430:54:46

We cut the straps off our hammocks.

0:54:460:54:48

You know, all the things that we'd learnt about.

0:54:480:54:50

We came up with a new way of carrying a casualty.

0:54:500:54:53

From that moment, we learnt the lessons of that contact.

0:54:530:54:56

You look at how they performed afterwards, the way they handled contact.

0:54:560:54:59

I did not see rabbits in headlights again.

0:54:590:55:02

Right, we're going to earn our pay.

0:55:020:55:05

Safeties off.

0:55:050:55:07

It did make me want to go out there and inflict damage to them.

0:55:070:55:11

-GUNSHOT It's the Taliban!

-Where?

0:55:110:55:15

It's the Taliban!

0:55:150:55:16

RAPID GUNFIRE Whoa!

0:55:160:55:18

To lose a life, to take a life.

0:55:240:55:25

We'd lose a life, we'd take 30, 40 of their lives.

0:55:250:55:28

GUNFIRE DROWNS SPEECH

0:55:310:55:33

I actually wanted to kill someone, because I'd been there

0:55:350:55:38

and they'd killed my men,

0:55:380:55:40

and I wanted to give them payback for what they'd done.

0:55:400:55:43

And it's difficult to say that to people

0:55:430:55:46

because you think, well, how can you want to kill another human being?

0:55:460:55:49

But it was very much an eye for an eye.

0:55:490:55:51

'If we identified somebody who was the enemy,'

0:55:540:55:57

they were going to get it.

0:55:570:55:58

It was almost a rush... I want to kill this person first.

0:55:580:56:01

-Here you are, here's another one.

-Where?

-There. Shoot him.

0:56:010:56:05

Afterwards you think, yeah, that's one for Chris, that is.

0:56:080:56:11

Yeah. Really good. I did enjoy it. I do think back on it.

0:56:110:56:15

Helen's many questions were still unanswered.

0:56:240:56:27

And then Bjorn Rose's letter arrived

0:56:270:56:30

that promised to tell her everything.

0:56:300:56:32

It was about an eight-page letter that went into great lengths

0:56:330:56:37

to describe from the start of the day,

0:56:370:56:40

what they were doing out there, and everything.

0:56:400:56:43

-Mm-hm.

-It was like reading a book.

0:56:430:56:46

And then I got to the part where it told you what happened to Chris.

0:56:460:56:50

And then it got that he was still alive in this letter,

0:56:500:56:56

that when they pulled him back there was still signs of him breathing.

0:56:560:57:01

And I freaked. Absolutely.

0:57:010:57:04

I was absolutely hysterical.

0:57:040:57:06

This was a couple of weeks after, obviously, we'd lost Chris.

0:57:060:57:10

-But I just lost it, didn't I?

-Mm-hm, yeah.

0:57:100:57:13

"They've lied." That's all I kept thinking,

0:57:130:57:15

"They've lied. They've covered up."

0:57:150:57:17

I like it!

0:57:190:57:21

And what everybody likes? The river.

0:57:210:57:24

Si Panter continued to film the six-month tour

0:57:250:57:28

which ended here in Sangin.

0:57:280:57:31

Our platoon sergeants are having an R&R session,

0:57:310:57:35

living the dream.

0:57:350:57:37

The dream is Sangin.

0:57:370:57:39

Salaam.

0:57:420:57:43

How much?

0:57:460:57:47

Having went to Sangin when it was under siege pretty much,

0:57:510:57:57

and walking through the town when you didn't see a soul

0:57:570:58:01

in the main bazaar, didn't see a shop or anything,

0:58:010:58:05

to when we, as a Company group, left...

0:58:050:58:10

and seeing a before and an after shot,

0:58:100:58:13

seeing a thriving, bustling little market town, full of people,

0:58:130:58:18

full of shops, you know you've made a difference, that is the difference.

0:58:180:58:23

Some kind of normalisation.

0:58:230:58:24

Yeah, it is a bit of a sense of pride, we are doing good.

0:58:240:58:29

Despite what the rest of the world thinks.

0:58:290:58:32

We actually are the boots on the ground, and we see it first-hand.

0:58:320:58:36

Salaam.

0:58:360:58:37

I remember thinking, I don't want to leave this place.

0:58:420:58:45

I've enjoyed being here.

0:58:450:58:46

Despite all the things that happened,

0:58:460:58:48

I really enjoyed... I felt like I was making a difference.

0:58:480:58:51

I felt like what we were doing was good.

0:58:510:58:53

In Iraq I felt that we were the problem, in Afghanistan I really felt that when you spoke to the kids

0:58:530:58:59

and when you spoke to local people,

0:58:590:59:00

you felt like you were making a difference.

0:59:000:59:02

It felt like the lives that we lost had actually been for a purpose,

0:59:020:59:06

that we'd done something worthwhile.

0:59:060:59:07

The summer of 2007 in Afghanistan was the bloodiest in the Regiment's recent history.

0:59:130:59:20

'When I got on the plane, I was like that,

0:59:220:59:24

' "Brilliant, I'm on the plane." '

0:59:240:59:27

Half an hour into the journey,

0:59:270:59:31

I remembered what someone said to me.

0:59:310:59:34

And that was, look at how many numbers of people that have arrived

0:59:340:59:40

on the plane and look how many empty seats there are going to be.

0:59:400:59:44

And I looked at the empty seats and there was nine.

0:59:440:59:46

I didn't share that with anybody else, I just kept that to myself.

0:59:490:59:55

When 3 Platoon arrived back in England the first thing they did

0:59:591:00:02

was travel to Leicester to meet Chris's family.

1:00:021:00:05

It was only then that Bjorn learned that the letter he'd sent

1:00:071:00:10

in an effort to answer Helen's questions

1:00:101:00:12

had had the opposite effect.

1:00:121:00:15

I think it had been very upsetting to her,

1:00:151:00:17

because I found out subsequently that the letter had been sent back.

1:00:171:00:21

Not been rejected, but it was too much at that point.

1:00:211:00:27

I'd said things in the letter that had contradicted

1:00:271:00:30

what she'd been told, and that caused a lot of upset.

1:00:301:00:34

And that's perfectly understandable.

1:00:341:00:36

I as a Platoon Commander felt like I'd done a terrible thing.

1:00:361:00:39

I thought, you know...

1:00:391:00:41

um, I only had the best intentions and yet

1:00:411:00:45

it had obviously gone horribly wrong.

1:00:451:00:47

Today, four years later, Helen and Paul are finally able to look again at Bjorn's letter.

1:00:501:00:58

I still think it's a really good letter.

1:01:001:01:03

It's just the timing of it.

1:01:031:01:05

But I do, I think, yeah...

1:01:051:01:08

It's just as it happened.

1:01:081:01:11

"They did everything they had been taught

1:01:131:01:15

"and found signs of life in Chris, which gave us all hope.

1:01:151:01:18

"And at one stage Sergeant Panter gave mouth-to-mouth to Chris to keep him breathing."

1:01:181:01:23

That's the part that Helen assumed he was alive.

1:01:241:01:29

That's it. And, but...

1:01:291:01:31

obviously after being told that it was instant, and he'd gone instantly, to...

1:01:311:01:37

and then reading that.

1:01:371:01:39

It was like, something's going on.

1:01:391:01:41

He was alive. You're lying to me, they've lied to me.

1:01:411:01:46

He wasn't dead straight away, he was alive.

1:01:461:01:49

And that's it, I freaked.

1:01:491:01:52

-It's like...

-But he was gone.

1:01:521:01:55

At that point.

1:01:561:01:58

The signs of life were purely like a biological action,

1:02:001:02:05

weren't they, in his body.

1:02:051:02:07

You know that, Helen, from the inquest.

1:02:081:02:11

You know it.

1:02:111:02:13

Put it away.

1:02:171:02:19

For Chris's friends, the Royal Anglians' 2007 Afghanistan tour will never be forgotten.

1:02:451:02:52

'I know it sounds strange, but getting shot at,

1:02:541:02:57

'it gives you a buzz that I've never, ever got anywhere else.'

1:02:571:03:01

2007 I come back, I went into like a slight bit of depression,

1:03:011:03:05

just because I was used to it.

1:03:051:03:07

But then you realise like, I am going to go back.

1:03:071:03:10

We know we're going to be there for a while.

1:03:101:03:12

Afghanistan was my last tour that I was on.

1:03:121:03:15

After Afghan...I, um, developed, um...

1:03:161:03:21

epilepsy, having fits.

1:03:211:03:25

So therefore I can never...

1:03:251:03:27

can't hold a rifle again.

1:03:271:03:30

And I've just been recently medically discharged from it.

1:03:301:03:36

I talked to Lucy about it, once.

1:03:371:03:42

And I got really upset.

1:03:421:03:44

And then I never talked about it up until now.

1:03:441:03:48

I mean, there's things that I want to remember

1:03:511:03:54

but there's things that I just...want to...forget about.

1:03:541:04:00

All the bad things,

1:04:001:04:02

that you wish that you can bring back but you can't.

1:04:021:04:05

I still speak to the Gray family

1:04:091:04:11

because I'm actually engaged to Chris's sister.

1:04:111:04:16

When we first got together, everyone thought I was a typical squaddie,

1:04:161:04:21

only after one thing or whatever.

1:04:211:04:23

I was against it at the time.

1:04:231:04:25

Massively against it. I thought it was...

1:04:251:04:28

yeah, shouldn't be done, because obviously he's my best mate.

1:04:281:04:31

But then I remember Helen coming up to me

1:04:311:04:33

and she was like, "She really likes you", and all that.

1:04:331:04:35

And she was like, "Chris would have loved it."

1:04:351:04:38

And all that. Obviously, looking after his sister or whatever.

1:04:381:04:41

But Helen was the one that made me feel better about the whole thing.

1:04:411:04:45

-GUNSHOT ON VIDEO

-Stop firing!

1:04:461:04:49

I would love to go back to Afghanistan cos, you know,

1:04:511:04:55

that's what soldiering and being a soldier is all about.

1:04:551:04:57

Where?

1:04:591:05:01

Where, where, where, where, where, where?

1:05:011:05:03

I don't really share and show the footage back here.

1:05:031:05:09

It does bring back memories and I do find it a little bit hard, yeah.

1:05:111:05:15

Yeah. If I'm honest. We've all got feelings.

1:05:151:05:18

Just because I'm a soldier doesn't mean I ain't got no feelings. But yeah.

1:05:181:05:22

"On arrival back at the COP,

1:05:371:05:39

"Major Biddick gathered the Company to tell us that Chris was dead.

1:05:391:05:44

"We were all mortified and a deathly silence descended over us all.

1:05:441:05:49

"All the boyish banter died out,

1:05:491:05:51

"all the bravado of that morning was gone.

1:05:511:05:54

"The stark reality of what combat really was all about

1:05:541:05:57

"had slapped us all in the face and a lot of 19-year-old boys turned into men.

1:05:571:06:03

"The stark reality of what combat really was all about had slapped us all in the face..."

1:06:211:06:26

This is Private Chris Gray.

1:06:361:06:39

Within 30 minutes of that photograph being taken, he was dead.

1:06:391:06:43

I'll just let that sink in.

1:06:451:06:47

'For me, I came back and I decided to leave

1:06:471:06:50

'and teaching was something I'd always been interested in.

1:06:501:06:54

'I teach History but also I'm involved in the Combined Cadet Force.

1:06:541:06:59

'I pass on my military experience to them but I try to do it in a realistic context.

1:06:591:07:03

'I don't try and make it rose-tinted.'

1:07:031:07:06

At no point do I ever encourage anybody to join the military.

1:07:061:07:11

In fact, in many ways I dissuade them.

1:07:111:07:13

"The tradition of naming a location after a fallen comrade has continued here.

1:07:181:07:25

"The COP is now known as COP Gray in honour of Chris and the sacrifice he made.

1:07:251:07:32

"If I have failed in any way to answer any questions you may have regarding Chris

1:07:321:07:36

"and the circumstances of that day then feel free to write and ask.

1:07:361:07:41

"I do not want to feel you have been denied any information.

1:07:411:07:46

"Once again, allow me to say how truly sorry I am for your loss.

1:07:471:07:53

"Yours sincerely, Bjorn Rose, Lieutenant,

1:07:531:07:58

"Officer Commanding 3 Platoon".

1:07:581:08:00

After 2007, the fighting in Afghanistan

1:08:091:08:12

became even more ferocious and a new threat appeared.

1:08:121:08:17

Next time, we follow a young captain

1:08:191:08:22

who filmed his platoon as they confronted the invisible enemy...

1:08:221:08:25

..landmines.

1:08:301:08:32

Everybody's vulnerable.

1:08:321:08:33

If you fuck up you die.

1:08:331:08:35

If you fuck up, worse off, your mate dies.

1:08:351:08:37

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd.

1:09:001:09:03

E-mail [email protected]

1:09:031:09:06

This opening part of the series tells the story of a close-knit group of friends from 3 Platoon, 1st Battalion Royal Anglian regiment, who were sent to Helmand province in 2007. For most of them it was their first experience of war. The whole tour was filmed on a helmet camera by the platoon's sergeant, who captured the moment when one of his men, 19-year-old Private Chris Gray, was killed in a Taliban ambush. The film explores the effects of his death on both his mates in the platoon and his family back in the UK.


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