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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"Dear Mrs Gray,
"My name is Bjorn Rose and I was your son Chris's Platoon Commander.
"I was leading the platoon on the day that he was killed
"and was with him seconds after he was hit by that fateful bullet.
"What I wanted to do was explain to you what had happened and try to help you
"understand the circumstances surrounding his death."
"Please be aware I am going to tell you everything
"in as much detail as possible,
"so if you feel you cannot read this yet then perhaps save it for a day that you feel stronger.
"I am ultimately responsible for the lives of the men in my platoon,
"and I feel it is my duty to tell you how it was that day."
No modern conflict has been recorded like the one in Afghanistan.
Young soldiers take their own cameras to the front line
and film the war as only they can see it.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is fucking war!
-Afghan camera. I'm here with the Sergeant Major.
I've been fucking smacked in the eye by shrapnel.
At the moment, fucking Afghans are fucking all around us.
We're just firing everything we've got.
The cameras the soldiers use can go anywhere,
and once set recording can easily be forgotten.
This war has been fought for ten years,
and thousands of hours of this uncensored footage
has been held by the Ministry of Defence.
Now, the MoD and the young soldiers
have allowed us to use that footage to tell their extraordinary stories.
Any last words for your bird?
This is the story of a close-knit group of friends
led into battle by Lieutenant Bjorn Rose in the summer of 2007.
By the end of their tour, one would be dead and others injured
in what would become the defining summer of their lives.
On March 25th 2007, 600 men from the 1 Royal Anglian Regiment
waited to board a flight to Afghanistan.
Among them was Platoon Sergeant Simon Panter,
a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He filmed the whole six-month tour.
'We knew that it was going to be a tough, tough tour.
'The information we were given -
'expect a fight with the Taliban.'
Chose to film it, you know, to look back on in years to come.
You know, a bit of posterity, history.
When I'm getting old and grey, sitting in my wheelchair,
sit back and have a laugh.
That's us now boarding the flight off...
Take us to Kandahar on Op Herrick 6.
-..seat in front of you. As a reminder,
you will require your helmet and body armour available for the descent into Kandahar.
With Sergeant Panter on the plane were the soldiers of his platoon.
3 Platoon were a group of 19 young men.
Most had never been to a war zone before.
'We were all quite young so... It's not that we didn't take it seriously,
'but none of us knew really what to expect.'
Afghan wasn't really a big thing then, it was all still Iraq.
It was like, "I'm going to Afghan, and they're like, "OK, cool."
No-one thought anything about it.
I remember my Section Commander calling me up to the office
and I'm thinking, "What have I done wrong now?"
So he called me and he says, "Do you want to go to Afghanistan?"
First I'm like, "Scuse me?"
And then the first thing that came out of my mouth was "Yes!" I were excited.
It took 3 Platoon almost two weeks to reach the front line.
First there was an eight-hour flight to Kandahar.
'When you step off the plane,'
that's when it just feels reality.
You're like, I'm here for six months.
Is it going to be a long one?
Or is it going to go quick?
3 Platoon travelled to
their first Combat Outpost, or COP, by Chinook helicopter.
You're looking out the windows, you're feeling it, you're nervous,
your heart's pumping, you're sweating, really hot.
Flying over desert, thinking are we going to get RPG-ed here?
Is the enemy in the mountains?
Although they'd trained together in Kenya, they'd never fought together...
and they had a new lieutenant, Bjorn Rose.
'I joined A Company, 1 Royal Anglian, in January 2007.'
The platoon I found was a mix of
people who had operational experience,
so people who had been away to Iraq 18 months previously,
but also a lot of boys.
I say boys because they WERE boys.
Sort of 18, 19-year-olds who had literally just come out of training
and were joining the battalion for their first tour.
'It was a fixed platoon. No-one new coming in very often'
and no-one leaving the platoon.
So we all worked together loads on exercises,
on all the live fire shoots we did.
So it was a very close-knit platoon.
'Matthew Duffy, he was a bloke who I went through training with.'
He's a great laugh, can be very immature at times.
'Stringer's a good bloke. Don't know if he liked me to begin with.'
I asked him if his mum knew he was there.
And I don't think he appreciated that.
'Duffy at that time was in a clique'
with some other soldiers -
Private Croft, who looked about 12,
Private Chris Gray, who was only 19
and yet I think he was quite mature for his age.
As a soldier, Chris Gray was very professional.
He probably loved it a bit too much, actually. Very keen.
His kit had to be perfect.
WOMAN: He had a thing about guns, Christopher did.
Even from a young age it was every toy, "Can I have a gun?"
That's all he ever said.
And I said when he was little, he's either going to be a mass murderer
or he's going to join the Army.
It had to be one or the other. I'm glad it was the Army.
Well, no, I'm not glad it was the Army.
But I wouldn't want him to be a mass murderer either.
After a 20-minute flight,
3 Platoon were dropped on the outskirts of a town called Now Zad.
"You're running off thinking what's happening, what's happening?"
There's dust everywhere, you can't see or hear anything
because of the helicopter. And the helicopter sets off.
And you're lying there and all the dust then settles. And you're looking around, wow.
Home for the next two months was this fortified compound,
a disused town hall.
The troops that had been here previously had come under intense attack by the Taliban.
This is where they do all the analysis.
It's the hub of the intelligence world within Now Zad.
We also give briefings in here, but it's very hot and sweaty so I don't like it.
The spike that's come through the ceiling, that's where they put the flag pole up
and didn't quite realise how thin the roof was.
The whole place is falling down, really. This here, I like this bit.
This is when the Fusiliers were here, spray of blood in the corner. Excellent.
I couldn't believe it, all these houses were made out of mud huts.
You know. It was quite amazing how small they actually are.
With the doors, as you go in you have to bend down,
which was quite annoying, especially with kit.
You were literally living in what seemed like a dusty cave.
You spent a lot of your time just making it a bit more comfortable, a bit more homely.
3 Platoon's new home was a long way from anywhere
and in the middle of enemy territory.
It would take reinforcements at least 20 minutes to get there
if they came under attack.
Now Zad sits in a valley bowl
surrounded by mountains that go up to about 2,000 metres.
It was surrounded by a cluster of small villages
that were known to be occupied by the Taliban.
The Gurkhas had occupied this District Centre,
had found themselves surrounded and under siege
and the situation had developed to the point
where there was a status quo established in Now Zad,
where they were in the District Centre
and the Taliban were over a dry wadi, a dry river bed,
on the other half of the town.
So we were there essentially
just to make sure that the status quo remained the same.
The only thing we really controlled was about 500 metres
around where we found ourselves in the District Centre.
And that's the situation that we took over.
The conflict that had brought 3 Platoon 3,500 miles
to this remote outpost
was sparked by events one Tuesday morning six years earlier.
-In the past few minutes, a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.
-..a cloud of grey smoke coming from the top of it,
and now, in the last 30 seconds, another explosion...
On September 11th 2001,
the world watched in horror as hijacked airliners
were deliberately crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York
and the American military headquarters -
the Pentagon in Washington DC.
-So this looks like, frankly, the largest terrorist operation we've probably ever seen on the planet.
I was on the school bus on the way back,
and, literally just pulled up outside my house,
and I think the bus driver said, "Make sure you check the news, the twin towers have been hit."
And I remember thinking, what are the twin towers? Didn't have a clue.
I was at school at the time.
I didn't really think much of it, to be honest,
it's just something that happened in America to me.
My mother was watching the news
when I got home and she said, "Look at that," and I was like, "Whoa..."
Big explosions and stuff.
I was only 14, at school.
Didn't really have much on my mind at all.
Within days the men behind the attacks were identified as Al-Qaeda -
an ultra-Islamist terrorist network run by Osama Bin Laden.
Everyone knew that Bin Laden and his men were being protected by the Taliban,
who'd seized power in Afghanistan.
Bin Laden became the world's most wanted man.
Tonight, the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban.
Deliver to United States authorities
all the leaders of Al-Qaeda who hide in your land.
Within a month, war was declared.
The Taliban were swept aside, Allied forces claimed victory.
But Bin Laden was nowhere to be found.
OK, this is the mouse hole that goes through to the back gate, which is there.
It comes through into this compound, there's another mouse hole there.
There's also another mouse hole going through there...
Back in Now Zad, 3 Platoon were settling into the COP
and discovering just how smart the enemy was.
The whole outpost was riddled with a network of firing points and tunnels
from where the Taliban could spy or attack.
It's so easy for them to get so close to camp.
You're lying in bed thinking, is tonight the night?
Are they going to come? What's going to come through that wall? Are they going to explode through my bedroom?
For the first three, four weeks I'd sleep with my weapon
always there on my bed, looking at this wall thinking,
if they're going to come through, they're going to come through there.
This is a pucker's ambush location, isn't it?
They've got another firing arm just down there, another one there,
three of the fuckers here.
One by one, Bjorn and his men laid mines to blow up the hundreds of walls and ambush points.
It took a week to secure the base.
Right, are you turning off your radio, or not?
I'll get behind that wall and stay there.
OK. I'm going back.
When we started doing a few more patrols and started getting used to it,
things started getting a bit more comfortable.
Duffy, instead of looking down at the ground,
where should you be looking?
Right, let's fucking do it.
Everything didn't seem completely different in very...
It's like you're actually there.
To begin with it's like you're watching somebody else do it.
It's very abstract, if you know what I mean.
But then, yeah, you get comfortable when you get into a routine.
That was half a barmine...!
-And that's half.
-That's half a barmine.
3 Platoon continued their work
and it became clear that an enemy that was apparently defeated in 2001
was still very much a threat.
REPORTER: 'Royal Marines and engineers surveying how to begin the task of reconstruction.'
In the two years after victory was declared, the allies set about rebuilding Afghanistan.
Big plans were made and money was promised.
But then the West's war on terror switched to a new target.
Britain and America committed massive resources to the Iraq war,
that rapidly spiralled out of control.
Iraqi insurgency was born, and they fought back in any way they could.
All this took everyone's eyes off Afghanistan.
Quietly, the Taliban were watching and learning from what was happening in Iraq.
Videos were produced showing the best ways to kill British troops
and more and more young men were joining the fight against the West.
And then, on 28th January, 2004,
the first British soldier died at the hands of the enemy.
The Taliban was back and ready to fight.
With the perimeter of their base secured,
3 Platoon were able to push out into the old town
for their first patrol.
I was quite nervous.
It was, like, a Taliban training camp.
Just walking around is proper eerie.
The town, when we occupied it, was deserted -
there was nobody there at all.
All the civilians had moved out because of the fighting.
Literally, you imagine some sort of Spaghetti Western.
You know, there was a main drag
and it was tumbleweed going down, shutters flapping.
It was eerie, really eerie. There was nothing there.
Like a ghost town, innit, Clarky?
To be totally honest, first patrol,
I was actually kind of shitting myself,
cos I didn't know what to expect.
It was my first patrol on my first tour.
Every little bang and stuff you'd look, you'd jump,
and have a look, see what it was.
It was only about an hour and a half long, if that. Just a satellite patrol.
I remember when I first walked out and thinking,
"Cor, it's like being in Norwich."
It was just weird seeing it not be lived in.
It was like it wasn't real, like it was a film set or something.
And you were a bit, "What was that?"
A bit jumpy.
Go on, then. Here you go.
"I'm not sure if Chris informed you of where he was or what it is like.
"I thought it might help if I painted a picture of the town in which he found himself.
"Now Zad is the northernmost town that we have British troops in Helmand Province.
"It boasts one of the only metalled roads
"that runs through the district centre.
"It was on this road
"that all the shops from the old bazaar were located.
"In happier times these were thriving
"with people selling all their local produce
"they had harvested from the surrounding fields.
"Today the town is utterly deserted,
"the old bazaar a bombed-out ghost town.
"because it had been the centre of intense fighting on and off
"since last 2006."
-'This is the centre of Now Zad town
'the aftermath of a bombing raid
'called in by British forces.
"Chris may have said
"that until the 13th of April, Now Zad had been very quiet for us.
"Not a single shot had been fired in anger.
"We'd all begun to think that the Taliban were a myth.
OK, it's recording now.
It's all going to go!
INDISTINCT SPEECH OFF-CAMERA
'After two weeks of patrolling in Now Zad,
'getting familiar with the area, testing our weapon systems,
'feeling confident and acclimatised in the country,'
Major Biddick decided that... he would shatter the calm.
Major Dom Biddick,
the Officer Commanding the Royal Anglians in Now Zad,
was a former intelligence officer
who had served in Afghanistan twice before.
His task was to implement a new strategy for the British Army.
Take the fight to the enemy.
The operation on Friday the 13th
was to clear an area called Sorkani,
which was an area to the east of the district centre, where we were based.
It was an area where we knew there was a Taliban stronghold, basically,
so it was about getting on the front foot, letting them know
that they were no longer going to be able to feel secure and unmolested in that area.
At the end of the day, we was out there to get rid of the Taliban,
and if we had to go and find them, we had to go and find them to do that
and upset their little apple cart, and upset the way they live
and let them know that we are here
and we are here to stay.
We were all in the wadi, formed up,
ready to cross the line of departure at dawn.
At the back of all the soldiers' minds they're thinking,
you know, "This is it. We're crossing the wadi,
"we're going into Taliban-held area
"and the likelihood is we're going to get in a scrap,"
and they were all up for it.
Candid Camera, you're on.
The plan was for Platoons 1, 2 and 3 to move through Sorkani house by house
until it was clear of Taliban fighters, weapons and firing points.
The town was dead once we'd crossed the wadi, there was no-one there.
I think Stringer, he saw a little boy run off as soon as they saw us.
Didn't think nothing of it.
There's, like, fires that had been put out, so there'd been people there
as we'd been moving up.
It was like we knew something was about to happen, but we didn't know when.
51, on me.
We were conscious of the fact that the Taliban had been talking on the radio,
and we could intercept their radio communications and we could hear what they were saying,
and they gradually became aware as the sun came up that we were there in Sorkani,
and the essence of what we got from their radio messages
was that we'd stirred up the hornet's nest a little bit.
After four hours of clearing, the troops had found nothing
and Number 1 Platoon had reached the edge of the village.
We knew that this was actually a point of high risk,
not least cos it put us at the greatest distance from our base
and the greatest proximity to the enemy.
It was a bit of a pause, because we knew it was a delicate time in the operation.
The order was going to get called to withdraw back.
We've now cleared through, we've found nothing and we're thinking,
wrong, why is there nowt here?
It came on the radio we were going to withdraw.
As soon as that happened, I remember just a world of fire came down.
EXPLOSION, RAPID GUNFIRE
1 Platoon had walked into an ambush.
There was an almighty eruption of fire from our north,
where we knew 1 Platoon were.
And when I say an almighty eruption of fire, it was a coordinated ambush.
-Is that 51 firing there?
-I don't know what it is. I think it's 51.
Fuck! So, what's all that, then?
Did they get our blue smoke, did they?
We're going to put another one up. Give me another smoke.
-This is what it's all about!
-'When we first started getting shot at,'
I'm like, that's got to be someone else.
On exercise, there's usually a lot of people cutting around on the area.
I was like, hold on, there's no-one else here.
Then I thought, hold on, I could get hit.
So, for some reason I tried taking cover behind some grass that I was in,
so I figured that really wasn't going to work, so I just sat down,
leaned against a wall and just waited out to be told what to do.
Get spread out in this fucking BUND line.
Get spread out.
I want a GPMG or a fucking LMG there.
I remember walking down an alleyway thinking, oh, this is brilliant, this is my first contact.
I remember looking at Chris Gray
and he did the "rock on" symbol to me, like, this is it!
We spoke about this for ages, what's the first contact going to be like?
So, I was like, yeah, rock on back.
That was coming this way, that one. That one was coming this way.
Right, let's go, then, boss. Lead off, boss.
I'll bring up the rear, let's go.
1 Platoon were pinned down.
From his position, Major Biddick spotted an immediate threat.
If the Taliban sent men around to the left,
they could cut 1 Platoon off and attack them from behind.
So, he ordered 3 Platoon north to stop it from happening.
Corporal Moore was first, he was going to lead with 1 Section,
and his point man was Private Chris Gray.
Chris Gray was one of the front two,
the reason being he had the light machine gun,
so if it did kick off, there was a heavier rate of fire
that could be put down straight away.
You and I'll cover the rear.
Where's Stringer? You're with me.
You've got the rifle, cover our fucking arse.
-You're last man, right.
We got told we was going to go round and try and outflank the enemy
and cos I was Platoon Sergeant's group,
Platoon Sergeant's group is generally at the rear,
I stayed back, the other sections went forward.
Right, pass it down, keep the fucking noise down now.
Fucking hell! Jock's just had a five-metre contact with the Taliban.
Corporal Jock Flight was moving through the alleyways
in a very similar direction to us, he was just slightly north of us.
And all of a sudden it came over the radio that he'd had what he called
a five-metre contact with the enemy,
which essentially means that he'd bumped into the enemy.
He'd walked round a corner and had a meeting engagement with them.
But that immediately rang alarm bells in my head
because as I plotted on the map where he was, and I worked out where we were
and I worked out the course that we were taking, would pretty much...
any Taliban that was fleeing from him would run into us.
There was a light bulb moment when I realised, we're going to run into them.
At the front of the platoon, Billy Moore and Chris Gray had just walked into an orchard.
I made the rest of the section stay back slightly,
stay in cover, while me and Chris went forward to clear.
We heard some noise and then we saw five guys walk out in front of us
carrying weapons and belts of ammunition strapped round them.
So, there was no question that they were enemy
and we knew what they were going to go and do, so we didn't hesitate.
The visibility, limited by the trees, was only about 15 metres,
and I can just about see the front of the platoon
and there was smoke coming off the guns as they started firing.
We dropped the enemy that was to our front, and then once we'd done that,
the enemy behind the wall started engaging us.
At the rear of 3 Platoon, separated by 150 metres of mud wall,
Sergeant Si Panter was unaware of the seriousness of the situation.
Get here! Get here, you cunt!
The bullets had started flying, there's a little bit of excitement,
and I was at the back - tail-end Charlie.
And being in contact is almost like a drug. It's good fun.
I know it sounds very strange, but being a soldier, there's nothing like being in contact.
It lets you know you're alive.
We got the upper hand. I give Chris a kick on the arse and tell him to do the first bound backwards.
He turned, he looked at me and said, "Bill, I'm hit."
And then he dropped at my feet.
Next thing, "Man down! Man down! Man down!"
The whole world came down on us.
All I could hear was rounds going off, grenades going off.
As soon as we heard that, "Man down, man down!"
It's the worst thing you can hear as a soldier.
I was out there on a limb, on my own, guys were trying
to get forward to me, they were getting beaten back by the fire.
I had to do everything I could to try and get help forward.
That's where I dropped my rifle, picked up his
light machine gun, and I just basically sprayed
the general direction where the enemy fire was coming from.
Keep fucking facing rear!
'The drill is that when somebody says "man down"
'because there's a casualty,
'it should be said by every man in the platoon until it reaches the Platoon Sergeant'
at the back of the platoon.
And I heard "man down" and I thought, "No".
And it got shouted all along, it got to me and I didn't say it.
And I was in denial and I thought, "No, this isn't happening."
And I thought, "No, there's been a mistake."
And then I heard it again, more urgently this time. "Man Down!"
From the front, it got all the way up to me again and I thought,
I've got to say it. I said, "Man down!" I was like, "Right, this is it."
You know, what is going on here?
And it continued down the line towards Sergeant Panter.
Where, where, where, where, where?
-Where is he?!
Two of you, come with me!
'What I'm supposed to do as Platoon Sergeant in a contact when we have a man down, is wait at the rear,'
-'get the guys in all round defence and wait for the section to bring the casualty to me.'
-Who is it?
-I don't know yet!
On this occasion,
it sort of... I was blinkered and just thought, "Man down, blimey. Go."
Get him to me now!
Eventually I got level with Corporal Moore at the front of the platoon,
and I said, "What's going on?"
And he said, "I've got a man down."
And I said, "Who is it?" And he said, "It's Gray."
And before I had a chance to do anything else, he
pulled the pin out of a grenade and he threw the grenade to the front.
In the confusion, Panter thought the fire could be 1 Platoon.
-There's enemy down there!
-It's not enemy, it's blue!
Oy, go! Scrivener, Simmo, get the casualty to me now.
When I got there he was lying on his face and I was like...
I saw loads of blood on his arm.
I was like, "Who is it?"
For some reason, because I didn't recognise him. I clocked who it was.
So I started trying to pick him up and that.
As I moved, a massive rate of fire came down.
Same thing we do, you see enemy moving, you give a massive rate of fire.
So they could see us, but it was so frustrating, we could not see them.
In the process of that,
it was complete chaos. I heard Corporal Moore say to me,
"Boss, I've been hit."
I'm hit! I'm hit! I'm hit! I'm hit!
Go, back! Get back!
Get down! Boss! Get me that casualty now!
I bumped into Billy Moore, and he'd been hit in the arm.
And I thought, "Oh..." I know it's bad to say, sort of...
I thought, "Oh, thank God this is just the casualty.
"It's just a gunshot wound to the arm." I was a team medic at the time.
So I just thought I'd FFD in his arm, put the field dressings on.
The wound was so big that the first FFD I put on had slipped inside.
So I then had to get my fingers inside and pull this FFD out and it
was like, "Oh, that's a bit disgusting."
But Billy Moore was not the only casualty.
Go on, two of you, get this casualty back now!
Get him up! Pick him up, you cunts!
Get his kit off him.
Get it off of him.
Get it off of him!
No movement, his eyes were open at the time and they were just lifeless at the time.
My initial concern that he was dead.
-No, he's alive.
Right, get him back. Get him back.
Get him back! Leave his kit, get him back!
'I pushed back and I started sending a radio message to the Company
'Commander, letting him know what had happened and that we had a casualty.'
And when it came to the part of the report that you send where you say what state the casualty's in,
I was... I hesitated. I wasn't sure what to say.
And I kept shouting over to Sergeant Panter who was about ten metres away from me, I kept saying, "What is he?
"Is he... Is he T4?"
And T4 is a designation you give to someone who's been killed, to someone who's dead.
Do not send that yet!
I was like, "Don't send that.
"He isn't dead yet."
"Send it as a T1, a priority one casualty."
So yeah, I did get a little bit cross then, cos I was thinking, "We don't want to have
"a dead soldier, he's not dead, we're going to try and save his life."
In the immediate moments hearing there was a casualty, we actually
continued prosecuting the contact.
So for me and for over two-thirds of the company,
nothing changed in that first instance when Private Gray was shot.
But an element of his platoon immediately focused on the casualty evacuation, began to relay the
information about what had happened back to the headquarters, who then started triggering the
casualty evacuation response from the main UK base in Camp Bastion.
We've got a T1 in Now Zad, we're still waiting for the nine-liner to come in.
Currently don't have an LS grid. Details to follow on the nine-liner.
-You firing up, Pete?
-Jules, we're going to go low-level the whole way.
By coincidence, a BBC documentary crew were
filming the Chinook pilot when the call from Now Zad was received.
They kept filming as he headed into the desert.
The intelligence reports made it very clear that it was a very hostile area.
But there's going to be a damn good reason why you're strapping into an
aircraft and about to fly into a particularly dangerous area.
And that's because somebody on the ground needs you there and needs you there now.
Put him on the stretcher!
Get him back.
Right, let's do it here. Stop! Stop!
Get the fucking shit on him now.
Get the stuff on him. Get the team medic pack, let's go.
Eight minutes had passed since Chris Gray was shot.
Duffy, the team medic, arrived to help.
Where's he been hit?
The back, exit wound to the front.
'Duffy was instrumental in treating the casualty.'
He was very calm.
Bear in mind that the casualty was his best friend in the platoon.
He kept talking to Chris and he identified the wound.
Come on, Gray, keep fucking with it.
Get him on his side. Right, get me the fucking FFD!
-Give me another FFD. Get this FFD on him now.
-'It was a tiny wound.
'There's a little curve in the Osprey body armour, that's where he got shot.'
I remember thinking, Friday the 13th,
and I thought at the time, "What a day to go out."
How unlucky is this? Literally in the curve of the body armour.
Is he breathing? Get some breath into him. Gray!
The Platoon Sergeant was giving mouth-to-mouth to Private Chris Gray.
I remember him turning round going, "No, no, he's alive! He's alive!"
He's still alive! He's still alive! He's still alive.
We need a casevac now!
It was the first time I've ever done that.
How does it feel? I don't know.
At the time, I was just doing my job trying to save his life,
I didn't think about it.
Didn't think about it at all.
I just got on with it.
He's not losing a lot of blood, he's got a shallow, weak pulse but
-he has got one.
-Get that stretcher sorted now. Get him up.
We hadn't really practised getting people on a stretcher yet.
So while we were doing it, we were trying to pick him up,
moving him around and that but we couldn't get him to stay on.
It was a nightmare, to be honest.
Get him on that stretcher properly, get him on that stretcher now!
-Let's get him on the stretcher properly!
-Four of you.
Oy! I want one of your men, now!
Get him on that... If he dies because of you three, I'm going to fucking hate you forever.
-Now, get him on there.
-Let's fucking go!
I don't know whether it's because of the situation
and having a guy that's unconscious or possibly dead in front of you.
What was obviously going round.
Because it's unnatural to do that.
They weren't really responding so I was getting a little bit pissed off.
It just wasn't happening. Then we started to panic a bit, yeah.
Get him on that stretcher. Four, there's the handles! Use four handles.
Get up there, get up there!
-You know where you're going.
-'Very, very difficult.
'The lightweight stretcher we had at that time was an improvised one.
'We were using a hammock, which dual role is to act as a stretcher.
'But the straps on the hammock meant that they trailed behind the casualty.
'And every now and again somebody would step on them,
'and it would yank a side off the sheet that the casualty was on and he would slide off.'
Get him in it! Two at the front, two at the back!
Get him in it! Get him in it!
-Someone get him up! So we can go again.
-OK, let's go!
'Everybody was conscious of the fact
'the speed at which they moved would dictate whether he lived or died.'
Come on, men. It's life and death.
Let's get him going, do not walk!
'After we'd gone through all the little alleyways and the difficulty...
'it was like when the guys saw the Company Sergeant Major,
'Kev Maine, there with the medic and his driver, it was like the guys relaxed - "We've got him there."
And just put him down five metres away from the Pinzgauer and started walking off.
Get him on! Get him on the fucking Pinz!
NOW! YOU, YOU FUCKING LEAVE HIM!
-Sarge, sorry Sarge.
-I want him!
He's still there, I want him!
-You all right, Billy?
-Yeah, I'm fine.
-Do you need morphine?
No, I'm fine. It's just going on now, it's all right.
My attitude was, I wasn't that bad, I'd got a hole in my arm, so what?
I can still command my guys back.
I've got one guy who's been seriously wounded, I don't want any more going back the same way.
So I just wanted to command those guys back into safety.
Get me that fucking body armour out now.
How the fuck did it go through?
-Where did it go through?
Through there and out there.
-Went through the side, went behind the plate.
-Went through the side?
I can't believe that.
They're shaking out. One Section down here, Two Section down here. OK?
Just balance ourselves to extract, ensure we've got all the blokes and we're good. All right?
There was nothing to say that we
weren't going to continue the clearance.
There was nothing to say that we weren't going to be
committed to battle again.
As commander, I needed to make sure the platoon was ready to do that.
They all had the 1,000 yard stare on and they
were all thinking about what had just happened.
So I was walking along saying, "Are you all right?
"Are you all right?"
-You all right?
-'And Sergeant Panter did the same.
'So it was very sort of cold and hard-nosed, but that's what needed to be done.'
You all right? Oy. Get that fucking gun deployed so if they fucking come you can fire straight away.
Can you fire straight away? Right, let's hurry up then.
There was a bit of a sense of relief cos we'd got Chris back
and he was back with the doctors
and on his way to Bastion, so in that, a sense of relief just
because we knew he was getting back and at the time he was still alive, or we thought he was still alive.
So yeah, there was hope.
Hope and relief.
From the moment the call came in,
and certainly doing the speeds that we were,
flying the aircraft literally as fast as it would go,
it couldn't have taken more than 20 minutes to get there.
40, 50, 60...
Yeah, I've got grid references.
SPEECH DROWNED OUT BY HELICOPTER
-How's the guy doing down the back? Is he still holding in?
-They're doing CPR.
A quick question for the medics, don't answer me if you're busy.
-If we have a problem with the cab would you rather go smooth and slow or fast and...
When you do your first casualty evacuation,
you know that it's an emotional thing,
but you are also aware that there's a war going on
and that's what happens in war.
By the time you've seen your first ten,
you're sort of getting used to it.
By the time you've seen however many I've got to see...
You... I think the danger is
you either become complacent and it becomes normal-place,
or it starts to weigh in the back of your mind.
Once we'd picked Private Gray up,
there was just something where it reached a level
whereby I couldn't really cope with it any more.
OK, popped the breaks on. Clear ramp, clear casualty out.
SPEECH DROWNED OUT BY HELICOPTER
SPEECH DROWNED OUT BY HELICOPTER
After four hours of battle,
in which an estimated 22 Taliban fighters were killed,
Three Platoon returned to their base.
Once we got back into camp,
it was very much... then the headache started.
You'd been going constantly
and you'd taken on very little water and you hadn't eaten anything.
And you'd been working your body to the absolute maximum
and it's been running on adrenaline.
And then the adrenaline stops and then you get a pounding headache.
When I came back into the base,
I was told that the Commanding Officer was on the phone -
on the secure phone.
So I went straight in and took that call,
then he told me that Gray had died.
We were called together as a Company.
We formed a hollow square...
and the company commander came out, Major Dom Biddick,
and he said, "Gentleman, I'm sorry, Chris Gray is dead."
And that was it.
I've never felt nothing like it.
It's just the worst feeling you can ever imagine.
Yeah, I felt pretty shit, to be honest.
You know, lost one of my men.
And yeah, I didn't like it.
Didn't like it at all.
That, there and then, is when it all hit me.
I was like, "That actually did just happen."
One of my mates just got shot, killed.
My section commander just got shot and injured.
And as soon as he said he'd died,
I kind of zoned out and that thought went through my head.
I was also quite frank with them.
I reminded them that Chris had died as the point man
of a section that was acting to go and support their comrades
in contact, in lethal danger.
And that if we were all hard and honest with ourselves,
then we knew that the possibility of death
was a brutal fact in Afghanistan,
in Helmand, in Now Zad.
Almost as tough as hearing Chris was dead,
one of the toughest things I had to do was pack his kit up and whatnot.
That was pretty tough, you know.
Get that boxed up and sent back to Bastion.
That was a tough old job.
And tough for the lads as well, the lads that helped me.
Duffy, Tuva and young Cowley as well, they helped me.
I didn't realise until about, what...
towards the evening,
that I had Chris Gray's blood on my shirt
where I carried his body armour.
And that's when it really hit me
and I just broke down.
I started crying.
In Leicester, Chris' family were unaware of his death.
Friday the 13th had started well,
with a letter from Afghanistan.
I can remember going out to see my horses in the morning
and this letter had come.
And Katie was really, really excited,
going on about, a letter from Chris, "Mum, look, look."
So we opened it and we read it.
"Yo, yo, from Afghanistan, Shitsville, Middle East.
"Hey, everyone, how's it going?
"All is good here. There's no need to worry, Mum.
"It's dead here.
"Fuck-all happening at the minute."
His language is terrible.
"How is everyone at home? Can't wait to get home
"and eat some banoffee pie."
He loved banoffee pie, it was his favourite.
Just before he went to Afghan,
we went shopping and him and Katie went off shopping
and they bought Tesco's Finest banoffee pie,
and it was nearly five pound - I always remember it!
And he ate the lot.
"There's a big TV and shitloads of DVDs to watch.
"If you're not doing shitty little jobs, the food isn't bad either.
"Everyone's dying to get some trigger time
"and razz some dirty enemy up.
"I'm off to get some more food.
"Talk to you soon. Bye."
I'd gone to work
and your mum come and fetch me from work.
She came in and she said,
"There's a man at the door from the army."
And I knew.
'Chris, look at Mummy!'
I wouldn't believe him at home.
I said he was one of them fraudsters that upset people,
going to people's houses and giving them bad news and it being a lie.
And I would not accept it at first.
I remember crying, screaming.
Your world falls apart.
Back in Now Zad,
the boys of Three Platoon
were coming to terms with their first death.
Are you all right, Duffy?
Bit fucked, are you?
Or not too bad?
The doc said that was like a 1,000 to one,
or a 100 million to one, that that happened.
That it fucking missed the plate by an inch.
Right, let's go, let's get out of this open area, guys.
Let's go. Let's move.
Right, let's get spread out men,
let's not fucking switch off, just because we're going back.
Let's get spread out, more chance of fucking getting hit.
The following day, I wrote a letter
because I felt it was my responsibility
to let the mother know what had happened.
Classically, a platoon commander has a responsibility, particularly when somebody dies,
of writing to the parents to let them know what happened.
I felt that that was something they deserved.
I didn't want to have a situation where years down the line,
at an inquest in England,
they found out piecemeal what had happened
and they felt that in some way the Ministry Of Defence had lied to them - that classic story from Iraq.
Stringer, just go over there, cover. Three three coming in.
Stay there, wait until we've got one more coming in.
At the back of my mind, I was thinking,
"I might be dead by the end of this tour."
And I thought, "If I don't do it now, it might never be said."
So I wrote a letter, and it was a very long letter,
and I sent it back through the battalion postal chain.
Chris was carried with difficulty to a fold in the ground, 20 metres back,
this is where Sergeant Simon Panter began to treat Chris
with the team medics Private Duffy, Tuva and Scrivener.
They did everything that they had been trained to do
and found signs of life in Chris which gave us all hope.
At one stage, Sergeant Panter gave mouth-to-mouth to Chris
to keep him breathing.
It would take several weeks for the letter to reach Helen
at her home in Leicester.
Chris Gray was the 53rd British soldier to be killed in Afghanistan
in six years of fighting.
In the three years that followed,
that figure would rise to 281.
Helen Gray received Chris' body a few days after his death.
Although she'd been assured by the army that Chris died instantly,
there were still many questions that only the men who fought alongside Chris could answer.
I just needed to know everything.
It was Christopher's first tour,
we got told he was point man - why was he point man?
Just so many things going round and round,
but because the boys were still in Afghanistan,
they were the people I needed to ask,
they were on the ground with Christopher,
they knew exactly what had happened,
and they were people I wanted to talk to.
But I had to wait till they came back.
The men of Three Platoon were fighting gruelling battles all over Helmand,
but the events of Friday the 13th were never far from their minds.
Enemy, enemy left.
We were all very...
aware of the fact that we performed badly
in that contact.
We've got friendlies along the front of this fucking wood line here. - tree line.
You're very self-critical.
Very self-critical when something like that happens.
You do reflect on it a lot.
Did I do this right? Did we do that right?
What could we have done better?
We didn't want nobody else to go
from our platoon,
from our company,
from our section, you know.
So after that day, we was like,
"Stop mucking around."
We cut the straps off our hammocks.
You know, all the things that we'd learnt about.
We came up with a new way of carrying a casualty.
From that moment, we learnt the lessons of that contact.
You look at how they performed afterwards, the way they handled contact.
I did not see rabbits in headlights again.
Right, we're going to earn our pay.
It did make me want to go out there and inflict damage to them.
-GUNSHOT It's the Taliban!
It's the Taliban!
RAPID GUNFIRE Whoa!
To lose a life, to take a life.
We'd lose a life, we'd take 30, 40 of their lives.
GUNFIRE DROWNS SPEECH
I actually wanted to kill someone, because I'd been there
and they'd killed my men,
and I wanted to give them payback for what they'd done.
And it's difficult to say that to people
because you think, well, how can you want to kill another human being?
But it was very much an eye for an eye.
'If we identified somebody who was the enemy,'
they were going to get it.
It was almost a rush... I want to kill this person first.
-Here you are, here's another one.
-There. Shoot him.
Afterwards you think, yeah, that's one for Chris, that is.
Yeah. Really good. I did enjoy it. I do think back on it.
Helen's many questions were still unanswered.
And then Bjorn Rose's letter arrived
that promised to tell her everything.
It was about an eight-page letter that went into great lengths
to describe from the start of the day,
what they were doing out there, and everything.
-It was like reading a book.
And then I got to the part where it told you what happened to Chris.
And then it got that he was still alive in this letter,
that when they pulled him back there was still signs of him breathing.
And I freaked. Absolutely.
I was absolutely hysterical.
This was a couple of weeks after, obviously, we'd lost Chris.
-But I just lost it, didn't I?
"They've lied." That's all I kept thinking,
"They've lied. They've covered up."
I like it!
And what everybody likes? The river.
Si Panter continued to film the six-month tour
which ended here in Sangin.
Our platoon sergeants are having an R&R session,
living the dream.
The dream is Sangin.
Having went to Sangin when it was under siege pretty much,
and walking through the town when you didn't see a soul
in the main bazaar, didn't see a shop or anything,
to when we, as a Company group, left...
and seeing a before and an after shot,
seeing a thriving, bustling little market town, full of people,
full of shops, you know you've made a difference, that is the difference.
Some kind of normalisation.
Yeah, it is a bit of a sense of pride, we are doing good.
Despite what the rest of the world thinks.
We actually are the boots on the ground, and we see it first-hand.
I remember thinking, I don't want to leave this place.
I've enjoyed being here.
Despite all the things that happened,
I really enjoyed... I felt like I was making a difference.
I felt like what we were doing was good.
In Iraq I felt that we were the problem, in Afghanistan I really felt that when you spoke to the kids
and when you spoke to local people,
you felt like you were making a difference.
It felt like the lives that we lost had actually been for a purpose,
that we'd done something worthwhile.
The summer of 2007 in Afghanistan was the bloodiest in the Regiment's recent history.
'When I got on the plane, I was like that,
' "Brilliant, I'm on the plane." '
Half an hour into the journey,
I remembered what someone said to me.
And that was, look at how many numbers of people that have arrived
on the plane and look how many empty seats there are going to be.
And I looked at the empty seats and there was nine.
I didn't share that with anybody else, I just kept that to myself.
When 3 Platoon arrived back in England the first thing they did
was travel to Leicester to meet Chris's family.
It was only then that Bjorn learned that the letter he'd sent
in an effort to answer Helen's questions
had had the opposite effect.
I think it had been very upsetting to her,
because I found out subsequently that the letter had been sent back.
Not been rejected, but it was too much at that point.
I'd said things in the letter that had contradicted
what she'd been told, and that caused a lot of upset.
And that's perfectly understandable.
I as a Platoon Commander felt like I'd done a terrible thing.
I thought, you know...
um, I only had the best intentions and yet
it had obviously gone horribly wrong.
Today, four years later, Helen and Paul are finally able to look again at Bjorn's letter.
I still think it's a really good letter.
It's just the timing of it.
But I do, I think, yeah...
It's just as it happened.
"They did everything they had been taught
"and found signs of life in Chris, which gave us all hope.
"And at one stage Sergeant Panter gave mouth-to-mouth to Chris to keep him breathing."
That's the part that Helen assumed he was alive.
That's it. And, but...
obviously after being told that it was instant, and he'd gone instantly, to...
and then reading that.
It was like, something's going on.
He was alive. You're lying to me, they've lied to me.
He wasn't dead straight away, he was alive.
And that's it, I freaked.
-But he was gone.
At that point.
The signs of life were purely like a biological action,
weren't they, in his body.
You know that, Helen, from the inquest.
You know it.
Put it away.
For Chris's friends, the Royal Anglians' 2007 Afghanistan tour will never be forgotten.
'I know it sounds strange, but getting shot at,
'it gives you a buzz that I've never, ever got anywhere else.'
2007 I come back, I went into like a slight bit of depression,
just because I was used to it.
But then you realise like, I am going to go back.
We know we're going to be there for a while.
Afghanistan was my last tour that I was on.
After Afghan...I, um, developed, um...
epilepsy, having fits.
So therefore I can never...
can't hold a rifle again.
And I've just been recently medically discharged from it.
I talked to Lucy about it, once.
And I got really upset.
And then I never talked about it up until now.
I mean, there's things that I want to remember
but there's things that I just...want to...forget about.
All the bad things,
that you wish that you can bring back but you can't.
I still speak to the Gray family
because I'm actually engaged to Chris's sister.
When we first got together, everyone thought I was a typical squaddie,
only after one thing or whatever.
I was against it at the time.
Massively against it. I thought it was...
yeah, shouldn't be done, because obviously he's my best mate.
But then I remember Helen coming up to me
and she was like, "She really likes you", and all that.
And she was like, "Chris would have loved it."
And all that. Obviously, looking after his sister or whatever.
But Helen was the one that made me feel better about the whole thing.
-GUNSHOT ON VIDEO
I would love to go back to Afghanistan cos, you know,
that's what soldiering and being a soldier is all about.
Where, where, where, where, where, where?
I don't really share and show the footage back here.
It does bring back memories and I do find it a little bit hard, yeah.
Yeah. If I'm honest. We've all got feelings.
Just because I'm a soldier doesn't mean I ain't got no feelings. But yeah.
"On arrival back at the COP,
"Major Biddick gathered the Company to tell us that Chris was dead.
"We were all mortified and a deathly silence descended over us all.
"All the boyish banter died out,
"all the bravado of that morning was gone.
"The stark reality of what combat really was all about
"had slapped us all in the face and a lot of 19-year-old boys turned into men.
"The stark reality of what combat really was all about had slapped us all in the face..."
This is Private Chris Gray.
Within 30 minutes of that photograph being taken, he was dead.
I'll just let that sink in.
'For me, I came back and I decided to leave
'and teaching was something I'd always been interested in.
'I teach History but also I'm involved in the Combined Cadet Force.
'I pass on my military experience to them but I try to do it in a realistic context.
'I don't try and make it rose-tinted.'
At no point do I ever encourage anybody to join the military.
In fact, in many ways I dissuade them.
"The tradition of naming a location after a fallen comrade has continued here.
"The COP is now known as COP Gray in honour of Chris and the sacrifice he made.
"If I have failed in any way to answer any questions you may have regarding Chris
"and the circumstances of that day then feel free to write and ask.
"I do not want to feel you have been denied any information.
"Once again, allow me to say how truly sorry I am for your loss.
"Yours sincerely, Bjorn Rose, Lieutenant,
"Officer Commanding 3 Platoon".
After 2007, the fighting in Afghanistan
became even more ferocious and a new threat appeared.
Next time, we follow a young captain
who filmed his platoon as they confronted the invisible enemy...
If you fuck up you die.
If you fuck up, worse off, your mate dies.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd.
E-mail [email protected]
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.