Into the Hornets' Nest Our War


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Into the Hornets' Nest

More stories of life on the frontline in Afghanistan. A daring mission deep into enemy territory is captured on camera by soldiers during the country's bloodiest summer on record.


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This programme contains very strong language and some scenes which some viewers may find upsetting

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In just a few days,

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these lads will be sent from their Army base in Cyprus

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to war in Afghanistan.

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'You don't know what's around the corner,'

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so we sort of treated each weekend like it was the last weekend.

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SINGING

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They would soon be dropped into one of the most daring operations

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of the war so far.

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Fucking hell!

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We didn't think for one minute that it was going to be as hard as it was.

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I was shitting myself.

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I was thinking, "I'm going to die out here in a fucking ditch,

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"I'm going to die in Afghanistan."

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For more than ten years, soldiers have been taking cameras

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to the front line in Afghanistan to film the war as only they see it.

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I wouldn't come here on fucking holiday.

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Thousands of hours of this uncensored footage has been filmed,

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and the MOD and young soldiers have allowed us

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to use that footage to tell their extraordinary stories.

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This, ladies and gentlemen, is fucking war!

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This is the story of Arnhem Company

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and their three-day mission into the Taliban Badlands,

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a battle for survival that would change the men for ever.

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One of my biggest responsibilities

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is to make sure that they all come home in one piece and they're all OK.

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And when that doesn't happen, it hits you like a ton of bricks.

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The summer of 2010 had seen the bloodiest start

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to the fighting season on record.

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In just two months, 36 British soldiers had been killed.

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Flying in to Helmand for his second tour was Sergeant Mark Wilson.

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He planned to film the tour for his family back home.

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Everyone enjoys a bit of leave and that,

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but probably like most people, after a couple of weeks you end up

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sitting at home twiddling your thumbs and wanting to get back.

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You know, there's only so much daytime TV you can watch.

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Arnhem Company, 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment,

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go by the nickname Lions of England.

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We're a battle-hardened Company.

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We've done four-and-a-half, five months of a tour already

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in Nad-e Ali, which was a highly kinetic tour

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and they took quite a few casualties.

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We were by far the most experienced troops in that Battalion.

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We weren't doughboys, we knew what we were doing.

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You've got lads from, like, Manchester and Liverpool.

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'Outside the Army they're not supposed to like each other.'

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But you get really close to them, they're like your family.

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Hey, Mum, if you're going to send me parcels of Trackers in again, I don't want it!

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It's weird, but with this regiment,

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I don't know what it's like with others, you just laugh it off,

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after you've been shot at you just laughed, you know what I mean?

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Because we're northern lads and we're from the North West,

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we've probably got a bit of a reputation of being scallywags.

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But we produce the goods when we're out in the field.

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Sergeant Wilson's boss was 25-year-old Captain Andrew Griffiths,

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a rising star in the Army who was following in his father's footsteps.

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All right smelly Matt?

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I'm doing something you don't do very often - I'm washing.

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'Everybody in the Battalion knew who the boss was.

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'As well as being a massive bloke, he was like a massive personality,'

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so when I found out I was getting the boss, I was made up.

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Captain Griffiths' friend and fellow officer was Andy Miller.

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He used to take stick, because his dad's a brigadier,

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so he'll always take stick, but he could easily, easily back it up

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by being the most competent bloke in the Battalion.

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Arnhem Company had been sent to Helmand with a simple mission

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to pick a fight with the Taliban.

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Building on Route Trident, a vital road link, was being held up

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because the Taliban were killing local workers.

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Arnhem Company was being called in to strike back.

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The officer in command of the operation was Major Paul Tingey.

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Beep-beep, coming through.

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'We weren't there to ground hold,'

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influence the population, win hearts and minds.

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We were there to do a very specific job,

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which was to take the fight away from Route Trident

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and into an area where the insurgent could act with impunity,

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so it wasn't an operation where we needed a soft touch.

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The plan was for Arnhem Company to sneak into enemy territory

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and deliberately provoke a fight with the insurgents.

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Over three days, they would fight them

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all the way back to the safety of their base.

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While the enemy was distracted,

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building on Route Trident could continue.

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The plan was audacious and risky.

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What made it so exciting was this was a classic,

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old-fashioned, World War II infantry op.

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We draw the insurg... Go behind enemy lines,

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deep into enemy territory, draw them away from an area that needs safety,

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essentially fight them, give them a bloody nose,

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and then pop back down to see the Gurkhas

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and back to PB3 for tea and medals.

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What are your feelings on going today, Flub?

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-A bit excited.

-Nervous?

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I can hear his heartbeat - ba-boom, ba-boom.

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'We nicknamed the operation Kick Hornet's Nest,'

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because we were just going to stir it up as much as humanly possible.

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Look at your ugly mug, son.

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Getting ready to go, it's a buzz of excitement, it's always go, go, go.

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Nothing can prepare your mind for what you're going to be doing.

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-Say hi to the camera.

-Hi!

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'It was further north than anyone had ever been.'

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All we knew was it was a Taliban bed down location,

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that's where they thought they were safe, secure,

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and they stored fighters, weapons and ammunition.

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'Looking at the ammunition that was in the centre

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'before it was all dished out to the lads,'

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there was enough there to fight half of Afghanistan, it was...

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It was ridiculous amounts of ammunition.

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Right, lads! If anyone's got any mail...

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Death letters to the wife and kids.

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Stay safe, lad. Stay safe.

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Just getting the pictures so when yous come back with no legs

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you can remember what you used to look like.

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When we packed our kit I noted in my diary,

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"I think we'll be lucky to get through this one without anyone getting hurt."

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'We were under no illusions that what we were facing

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'was quite dangerous, and Brigadier Griffiths'

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trusted me to, not just command soldiers of his regiment,

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but also command his son into battle.

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Andrew Griffiths' father was the highest-ranking serving officer in the regiment.

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We spoke to him on the Saturday as they were preparing to go out,

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and he just said, "We're going on another big one,

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"This could be, this could be really hard."

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And that was all he said, really, cos he couldn't say any more,

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and he didn't want to worry us any more.

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And he only told that to me, he wouldn't have told it

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to his mum, because, you know, that's what soldiers do.

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You know, you try and protect people as much as you possibly can.

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Another phone call home was made by 22-year-old Kingsman Darren Deady.

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The last time he phoned

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you could hear, you know, gunfire, whatever,

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going off in the background, and it sounded really close, to be honest.

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And you could hear, his voice was different, you know.

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It was, I suppose really, scared.

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Just after midnight,

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the Company sneaked into the Taliban's back garden.

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These pictures, filmed by a fighter jet 10,000 metres above,

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were being watched by Captain Bowden Williams

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in the nerve centre of the whole operation.

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His job was to oversee the mission from ten kilometres away.

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Difficult point when you step off.

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The ground was incredibly difficult to cross with heavy kit on,

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and they had a fair few kilometres to cover.

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The Company split up and took over three separate houses.

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They were 250 metres apart.

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As the sun came up, Sergeant Wilson turned on his helmet camera.

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Yeah, there's about 400 up here.

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'For the first couple of hours, we were sat there,

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'lads were trying to catch up on some sleep where they could,'

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and the conversation turned into, "Oh, this is going to be rubbish,

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"there's nothing going to be happening,

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"we're going to sit here for 12 hours until it gets dark."

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'It gets very hot, you've got to be alert,'

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you're expected to see things, you know, to be switched on,

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when the heat and everything else is telling you to switch off.

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It was me, Anthony Lewis and Tom Watson, who was called,

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that was sat on the roof,

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and I was down on the belt buckle, them two were sat up smoking.

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We were laughing at him, saying, "Shit's up, get your head up,"

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and he's going "No, believe me, it's going to go massive round here,

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"it's going to go massive."

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'Some of us were just resting.

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'And I was in my, like, my boxies, and I just started walking over'

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to get my pants off the washing line, and then it sounded like...

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like a twig snapping.

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I had time to think, "This can't be happening,"

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and I shouted "Grenade!"

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Everyone just going "Fuck!" and everyone ran.

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LOUD BANG

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Fucking hell, what was that?

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'Shocked wouldn't even be the word,'

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I couldn't believe somebody would be cheeky enough

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to even try and come that close.

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We never seen that coming, none of us seen that coming.

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SPORADIC GUNFIRE

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The Taliban were ten metres away behind a wall.

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Mr Griffiths, the Platoon Commander, jumped on the wall,

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and was saying, "If they're throwing them, fucking throw them back,"

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so he started getting all the lads' grenades, throwing them back. It was a grenade fight then.

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You could hear him screaming down at the bottom saying,

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"Bring me another fucking grenade!"

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GUNFIRE AND EXPLOSIONS Grenade!

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With the grenade fight raging,

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Lieutenant Miller was trying to see the enemy from his compound.

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One of Miller's men had spotted flashes from enemy guns.

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'That's the direction the fire's coming from,'

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he's seen movement, so it's time to suppress it.

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With his attention on the fire fight,

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Lieutenant Miller didn't see the enemy creeping around his blindside.

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They were good. They'd seen where we were exposed from,

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and at the same time we realised it they were attacking us from it.

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'It's just like a cat and mouse sort of thing.'

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They do something, we do something to counter it.

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They're smart, they're smart as fuck.

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They were more determined, more tenacious than we were used to,

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bolder than we were used to.

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Waves of Taliban fighters were now joining the fight.

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All we could see was mini buses full of men,

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motorbikes, more motorbikes...

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It was insurgents reinforcing from the south to the north,

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and pretty much surrounding the Company.

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In their compound, Griffiths and Wilson were struggling to hold the Taliban back.

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'They were looking for a way to get into one of the compounds,'

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and get involved in hand-to-hand combat with the guys.

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That becomes a desperate situation, because that can be quite an even fight when it's that close,

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and we don't want to have an even fight with them.

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CONTINUOUS GUNFIRE

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GUNFIRE STOPS

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'The one thing that was strange about the day was,'

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almost surreally, it just stopped for two hours.

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And, yes, I remember on Icom, and I remember people laughing

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when they said they were going for lunch.

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I'd gone off the roof, because we'd had a lull

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for about 45 minutes where nothing had happened,

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so we thought, right, that's it now, probably that'll be it for the day.

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'So we took the lads off the roof, get some water down them...'

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GUNFIRE

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'About 15 minutes later, as I was walking round,'

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we just had a massive, massive burst of incoming small arms again.

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And then we heard one of the lads shout "man down",

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and then my heart just sunk.

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I knew I'd been hit, how badly I didn't know.

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'Picked my helmet up, got up onto the roof,

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'and Mikey was lying behind one of the sandbags.'

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It felt like my head was going to explode,

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I started shaking and everything.

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We got him back into the compound, like, into a bit of safety.

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Mikey Wilson, nicknamed Willow,

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was one of Arnhem Company's most experienced soldiers.

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Jesus Christ.

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'And underneath his arm, by his armpit,'

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he had like a graze about that long where a round had gone

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underneath his armpit and sort of like sliced his skin a little bit

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and made like a bruise and a red mark.

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Mark was stood above me and he said, "You lucky bastard."

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You know, and it was... There was a few laughs.

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'And the first thing, it was a case of trying to get

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'some water down my neck and smoke as many fags as I could!'

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It is one of the most scariest things I've ever been through.

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Sometimes I wish that I did get hit, you know,

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because what happened after, you know,

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is one of the hardest things I've had to endure in my life,

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and that was to carry on.

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By the end of the first day,

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Arnhem Company had drawn the Taliban into eight hours prolonged fighting.

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'Day One,'

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although successful in achieving what we set out to achieve,

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was perhaps a little bit more kinetic than we'd expected on Day One,

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and also, you know, we didn't feel we had had the upper hand, necessarily.

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We did what we set out to achieve, but we weren't, you know, in control.

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As a father, of course I was concerned.

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As a soldier I knew that he and those around him would do all

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the very best they could to succeed in what they were trying to do,

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and that they would minimise the risks as much as possible.

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But in Afghanistan, there is no way to minimise risks totally,

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and so, you know, people do get wounded and killed.

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That is, sadly, a fact of life of the profession of being a soldier.

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But it's one of those factors that, being a commander,

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you learn from the very start - the mission comes first.

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Under cover of darkness, Arnhem Company slipped away from the enemy.

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Night-time was the safest time to move.

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If we stepped foot outside of that compound during the day,

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we would have been in a world of hurt.

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Captain Griffiths, Lieutenant Miller and the men joined forces

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and walked four kilometres to a large farmhouse.

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At daybreak Lieutenant Miller led his exhausted men

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out on a patrol in the hope they had a few hours

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before the enemy caught up with them.

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With him was Darren Deady.

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Kingsman Deady was one of my steady rocks that you turn to amongst your blokes

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for if you need something done, ask him.

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When we dished out the kit for the patrol and he got the heaviest bit of kit,

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he said, "I'm knackered. I'd rather take a round through the chest

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"than carry this for the next hour."

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'We were getting funny looks because we were patrolling patch compounds,

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'the doors were wide open. They were just looking at us'

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as if to say, "What are you doing here?

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You know, "You don't belong here".

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'Then we picked up a bit of Icom chatter.

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'It was the Taliban saying, "Yeah, they're in the area."'

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Yet again, the Taliban were watching their every move.

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Listening in on the roof were Sergeant Wilson and Captain Griffiths.

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-ICOM:

-Allah Akbar.

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Another Taliban was saying like, "Can we hit them now?"

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They were like, "No, we won't hit them now, we'll wait till they get back to the compound"

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and we were like, "Oh, God."

0:21:510:21:52

Go on, lad. Give it some lead.

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Is that all you got?

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Minutes later, the Taliban attacked.

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GUNFIRE

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-Did he?

-Yeah.

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I was knelt by the doorway,

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the sentry positions were just due the changeover.

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Kingsman Deady was going to move. I was going to move to the door with him.

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The sangar was probably only five or six, maybe ten metres at the most away from me

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and Deady got out of his sangar and he started running towards me.

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Obviously cos now the contact had started.

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GUNFIRE

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It was just like a short burst at first then I just heard a scream

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and then it went quiet,

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and then as I turned round, I'd seen Darren started screaming again.

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He sort of fell into me lap and I sort of like caught hold of him

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and he shouted that he'd been shot

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and, at first, I thought he was just messing around.

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I felt like saying, "Shut up, you dick, what are you playing at?"

0:23:010:23:04

I was like trying to work out what had happened, yeah, like.

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If he'd been hit, or where he'd been hit.

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I undone his body armour, and I pulled it open

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and as I put my hand underneath, as I pulled my hand out,

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my hand was like caked in blood.

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Little Red come in and said, "Smudge, get your stuff on, man down."

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So I just threw me pants on and a T-shirt,

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didn't have time, grabbed me med kit, ran out.

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He switched from being me mate to, like, "Let's just get him sorted,"

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and then, I just jumped straight on him.

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Sergeant Wilson sat next to me and said, "What do you want to do?"

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Darren Deady had been shot through the chest.

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There's nothing worse than having one of your lads injured.

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In most platoons, it'd be the same.

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I'd rather...

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I'd rather it was me sometimes rather than one of the lads getting hit.

0:24:110:24:15

Deady's blood pressure was dropping fast.

0:24:260:24:29

He needed a saline drip quickly.

0:24:290:24:31

The drip was a nightmare to get in, we tried, we tried and we tried.

0:24:350:24:39

We tried about nine times and Sergeant Wilson was like,

0:24:390:24:44

"Smudge, are yous going to get it in?"

0:24:440:24:46

And like, I just had a little bite with him and said,

0:24:460:24:48

"We're not fucking stopping."

0:24:480:24:50

We've got this golden hour where it's from the point of them becoming an injury

0:24:590:25:02

to the point of getting back to Bastion.

0:25:020:25:05

If they're to make it there within the hour, then the chances are that they'll pull through.

0:25:050:25:09

I remember the zap number coming through.

0:25:160:25:18

I knew straight away it was Kingsman Deady.

0:25:180:25:21

And you pick things up. It's not just the official reports and returns you get,

0:25:210:25:26

it's the background, listening to the lads shout.

0:25:260:25:28

I can tell who it is shouting, I can tell these lads if they're panicking,

0:25:280:25:33

and I knew this was serious.

0:25:330:25:35

Bowden Williams radioed for a Chinook.

0:25:390:25:42

A crew was scrambled, led by Flight Lieutenant Jon Singh.

0:25:420:25:45

I remember the 9-liner coming through, the first one of the day,

0:25:490:25:52

the first one of our tour as well.

0:25:520:25:54

So we were pretty keyed up, ready to go.

0:25:540:25:57

It was apparent from the information we got it was going to be

0:25:590:26:02

'relatively tricky in terms of the proximity of the enemy.'

0:26:020:26:06

It was rear gunner Ian McAuliffe's first casualty evacuation.

0:26:080:26:12

It's quite a lot to take in really on your first,

0:26:150:26:17

literally your first few seconds,

0:26:170:26:19

you're burning out across the desert knowing

0:26:190:26:21

there's going to be a welcoming party when you get there.

0:26:210:26:24

A Chinook is a big, old target

0:26:260:26:28

and you don't have to be that good to hit one.

0:26:280:26:30

The saline drip was in. The effect was immediate.

0:26:390:26:42

As soon as the drip went in, it was such a relief.

0:26:450:26:48

There was just, like, for a couple of minutes

0:26:530:26:56

Deady just, like, he forgot he'd been shot,

0:26:560:26:59

he was just himself, he was having a laugh, do you know what I mean?

0:26:590:27:04

Laughing at us and just telling us to shut up

0:27:040:27:07

and it was good to see him like that.

0:27:070:27:09

Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!

0:27:090:27:10

Deady's best friend was still up on the roof.

0:27:130:27:15

'At this point I still didn't know the extent of his injury.'

0:27:180:27:21

I could hear like the lads just talking to him,

0:27:210:27:23

and saying, "You're going to be all right" and he was talking.

0:27:230:27:27

'So when they were leaving the gate, one of the lads had his body armour

0:27:280:27:32

'and I could see all the blood on his body armour.'

0:27:320:27:34

Three, two, one... Lift!

0:27:340:27:36

They had to get Deady out to the helicopter...under fire.

0:27:360:27:40

GUNFIRE

0:27:410:27:43

James Kirner was sent ahead to protect the landing site.

0:27:550:27:59

'I've got gravel underneath me, I've got a lot of shrubbery and a lot of brush'

0:28:020:28:06

and I am concentrating.

0:28:060:28:08

It seemed to be the longest 15 minutes of me life

0:28:080:28:10

'thinking, I'll do the best I can for me mate, get him on the helicopter and out of here.'

0:28:100:28:14

As we came into land then, we'd seen the smoke,

0:28:170:28:21

I noticed the troops out on what was my left hand side.

0:28:210:28:24

The countdown from the front was coming in

0:28:260:28:28

and then all of a sudden Darrell's voice went up a pitch

0:28:280:28:32

and was like, "The troops, the troops!"

0:28:320:28:34

We were about to lower the front wheels onto the ground

0:28:340:28:37

I just saw this petrified face of a young squaddie

0:28:370:28:41

and we were just about to squash him.

0:28:410:28:43

I've literally seen it about ten foot above me

0:28:430:28:46

and I've thought, "What the fuck is that?"

0:28:460:28:48

I closed me eyes and braced for the worst impact of me life.

0:28:480:28:52

'I just remember screaming, "Up, up, up!"'

0:28:530:28:55

Imagine like my family getting the call to say,

0:29:050:29:08

your son's been killed. "How did he die?" "Well, he got squashed by a helicopter

0:29:080:29:12

"that was coming to casevac his friend." It would have been a shit way to go.

0:29:120:29:16

Right, let's go lets go, let's go.

0:29:180:29:20

Come on!

0:29:200:29:21

GUNFIRE

0:29:250:29:27

You see that helicopter come in and you put that casualty on there

0:29:320:29:35

and you think he's made it, he's going to be alive,

0:29:350:29:37

nothing'll happen to him now, he's saved.

0:29:370:29:39

'It's pot luck.

0:29:570:30:00

'You could roll a set of dice.'

0:30:000:30:02

You don't know where these bullets are going to land

0:30:020:30:04

and who they're going to hit.

0:30:040:30:06

Fucking hell, they've got Deady.

0:30:160:30:18

'After what had happened to Deady,

0:30:200:30:22

'a lot of the lads were payback and revenge.

0:30:220:30:26

'Me and the boss, we were exactly the same.'

0:30:260:30:29

We wanted to really give it to them.

0:30:290:30:31

Facing another day of Taliban attacks,

0:30:320:30:36

Captain Griffiths was ordered to hit back hard.

0:30:360:30:38

A target round, at five rounds...

0:30:380:30:41

Artillery and mortars were called in from bases 15 kilometres away.

0:30:410:30:45

There is always a time for a soldier to employ lethal force

0:30:520:30:56

'and as, you know, the Senior Platoon Commander in my company,

0:30:560:31:01

'I could trust him to get on with the job and he did so.'

0:31:010:31:04

Approximately five rounds.

0:31:040:31:06

Griff was a big believer in giving a big first punch.

0:31:090:31:13

If you want to keep coming at us, keep coming at us

0:31:130:31:15

and we'll just keep firing.

0:31:150:31:18

Approximately five rounds.

0:31:180:31:19

-Get your head down!

-Fucking move!

0:31:190:31:21

-Rounds in the air!

-You were told to stay there.

0:31:210:31:23

'He was quite happily at the front'

0:31:250:31:27

getting probably more rounds

0:31:270:31:29

down than the blokes were with his grenade launcher.

0:31:290:31:32

Whoo, go on, baby!

0:31:360:31:38

The lads were sat there and you could hear them shouting

0:31:430:31:46

and like laughing as if to say, "Yeah, we fucking got you back."

0:31:460:31:49

'We completely decimated the area,'

0:32:010:32:03

so anyone within the vicinity

0:32:030:32:05

will have been killed, there's no two ways about it,

0:32:050:32:08

they could not possibly have survived.

0:32:080:32:09

'The devastation we rained on them was epic, absolutely epic.'

0:32:110:32:15

In the UK, Darren Deady's mother was just arriving at work.

0:32:240:32:29

I was supposed to be in work for eight o'clock

0:32:300:32:32

and I got there at five-to-nine

0:32:320:32:34

and as fast as I walked through door Carl at work said,

0:32:340:32:37

"Turn round go home." I knew, I knew straight away.

0:32:370:32:41

That drive home was only about two miles, but it was awful.

0:32:430:32:47

I shouldn't have really drove the state I was in, I knew that

0:32:480:32:53

and I just walked through my front door and I looked at this guy in my front room and said,

0:32:530:32:57

"Tell me he's alive, that's all I want to know." He said, "He's alive."

0:32:570:33:00

I said, "Just don't talk to me."

0:33:000:33:02

They said it was 100-1 Darren actually survived the gunshot wound that he got.

0:33:040:33:09

So, obviously, at that point, we were not happy, but we were on a positive note.

0:33:090:33:15

In Helmand, Arnhem Company was entering the third night of their mission.

0:33:230:33:27

By then the lads were absolutely shattered, they were exhausted.

0:33:310:33:35

I mean, rations were running low, water was running low,

0:33:350:33:37

and you could tell fatigue was setting in massively.

0:33:370:33:41

We was all quite hungry, quite dehydrated, quite tired...

0:33:430:33:48

..just emotionally drained

0:33:490:33:52

and they wanted to just sack it off and finish the op, I think, that day

0:33:520:33:56

but that's another thing, you've just got to crack on.

0:33:560:33:59

Between them and the relative safety of the friendly forces compound,

0:34:010:34:05

six kilometres away, lay a big obstacle.

0:34:050:34:08

A notorious belt of land riddled with IEDs,

0:34:080:34:12

the Padaka Horseshoe.

0:34:120:34:14

That night it was scary

0:34:170:34:19

and you could sense

0:34:190:34:23

a bit of like, just a little bit of fear.

0:34:230:34:25

I know I was a bit scared leaving the compound.

0:34:250:34:28

I was like a rabbit in the headlights.

0:34:320:34:34

Looking over my shoulder, looking left, looking right,

0:34:340:34:37

every noise, even if it was an animal,

0:34:370:34:40

my head would spin straight round in that direction.

0:34:400:34:43

Patrolling in the darkness,

0:34:470:34:49

the men noticed more and more signs of IEDs.

0:34:490:34:52

No matter where you went, there were markers for IEDs that locals put down like,

0:34:540:35:00

like a little stack of rocks or something across the road

0:35:000:35:04

like some twigs across the road as if to say "Don't cross it

0:35:040:35:08

"cos there's something there"

0:35:080:35:10

and in the whole time in Afghan that we spent there,

0:35:100:35:13

I've never ever seen that many markers. No matter which way you turned there was another marker,

0:35:130:35:18

a couple of metres in front of you.

0:35:180:35:19

Listening in on the radio, Captain Bowden Williams sensed the men had taken a wrong turning.

0:35:220:35:28

They were sending location reports, lock stats of where they were and it wasn't right.

0:35:300:35:34

I remember at one point where I completely lost my temper

0:35:340:35:37

and I told everyone to go firm

0:35:370:35:39

and I said, "I want the lock stat from the lead man".

0:35:390:35:42

That then came through to me and they were in Padaka.

0:35:420:35:45

In the most dangerous part of the whole combined force area of operations.

0:35:500:35:54

Almost suicide...

0:35:540:35:56

Mark Hayward was the one who stepped forward.

0:35:560:35:59

Just as he sorted it out, got us in the right direction,

0:35:590:36:02

he said on the net, "Yep, I'm just heading east."

0:36:020:36:05

And I remember clearly swearing at him down the net, which you shouldn't do.

0:36:050:36:08

I said, "Don't you dare take one step east".

0:36:080:36:10

He went, "I'm going east" and I screamed, "Don't you dare take one step east!"

0:36:100:36:15

Then there was some laughing on the net and then he went,

0:36:150:36:18

"I meant west, I'm sorry."

0:36:180:36:19

The men reached the safety of their compound just before 6am.

0:36:240:36:27

As soon as they sat down, their eyes were closing straightaway.

0:36:340:36:39

A lot of them hadn't slept for three days,

0:36:390:36:41

they were just constantly either on stag, or in contact.

0:36:410:36:45

That's probably the most exhausted

0:36:450:36:47

I've probably seen people in my Army career.

0:36:470:36:50

Everyone wanted to just kind of stop.

0:36:530:36:56

You'd fold your body armour out and sleep on, sleep on Kevlar plates,

0:36:560:37:01

just for a few hours, kind of kip in a safe location with mates,

0:37:010:37:08

with fresh food, water and a bit of shelter.

0:37:080:37:12

That was the time we had to reflect on stuff

0:37:140:37:17

and obviously we were all chatting about Deady.

0:37:170:37:19

We were all like joking that saying, you know, "He'll be in the Pizza Hut in Bastion tomorrow, you know,

0:37:190:37:24

"getting a pizza and that and chilling out".

0:37:240:37:26

The plan so far had been successful.

0:37:290:37:32

The insurgents had been distracted away from Route Trident.

0:37:320:37:35

But then, Arnhem Company was ordered to go out again.

0:37:380:37:41

Particularly with tired soldiers,

0:37:450:37:47

this wasn't what Arnhem Company wanted to do,

0:37:470:37:51

but an order's an order, we don't have the bigger picture completely.

0:37:510:37:56

We all know, in our heads, tactically as platoon commanders,

0:37:590:38:03

we know exactly why we're being pushed out for depth.

0:38:030:38:06

However, it just went downhill from there, to be honest.

0:38:080:38:11

Just after 7am, the men left the safety of their base.

0:38:170:38:22

Sergeant Wilson was now recording their progress with photos.

0:38:220:38:26

The mist was in and I was like the last man of the patrol

0:38:270:38:30

and I could see them all going up onto the horizon.

0:38:300:38:34

I don't know if it was because the clag had come in,

0:38:340:38:38

because there were that many markers for IEDs, but it seemed dead quiet.

0:38:380:38:44

500 metres away, they found a compound.

0:38:470:38:50

It was deserted and the walls were riddled with bullet holes.

0:38:530:38:57

We knew that, obviously, the insurgents had been there before

0:38:590:39:02

so it might be a bit dodgy.

0:39:020:39:05

So we closed the lads up and we got them all up against the wall

0:39:050:39:09

while the boss and Sparksy and a couple of the others Valloned up to it.

0:39:090:39:14

Corporal Sparks attempted to clear for IEDs.

0:39:160:39:20

But metal debris all over the compound floor prevented accurate readings.

0:39:200:39:24

It was just littered with batteries, empty ammunition cases.

0:39:250:39:30

It would have taken hours, hours to meticulously search through

0:39:300:39:35

all that with Vallons and time was against us.

0:39:350:39:38

The boss sent a dog in, the dog cleared the area,

0:39:400:39:42

never come back with a reading.

0:39:420:39:44

So we made the decision to get all the lads in.

0:39:460:39:49

Inside the compound,

0:39:530:39:55

Captain Griffiths ordered his men to stay on a raised platform

0:39:550:39:59

thinking it would be safer.

0:39:590:40:01

As the men waited for the rest of the company, Sergeant Wilson took a photograph.

0:40:020:40:07

He took another of Captain Griffiths.

0:40:090:40:11

What his camera couldn't see was that the men were standing right on top of an IED

0:40:140:40:18

buried in the mud floor.

0:40:180:40:21

And just in front of Andrew Griffiths, between him and the door,

0:40:210:40:25

were another two IEDs.

0:40:250:40:27

The Taliban had booby trapped the whole compound.

0:40:280:40:31

Outside, Lieutenant Miller was arriving with his platoon.

0:40:350:40:38

We were working our way across a grass field,

0:40:400:40:43

up a little hill to the compound.

0:40:430:40:46

I asked Andy on the radio which side of the compound the door was on.

0:40:470:40:51

I was almost there so I asked him to come and open it.

0:40:520:40:54

I was about to jump up and go get them, and the boss went,

0:40:540:40:58

"I'll go. I'll meet them at the gate."

0:40:580:41:01

He moved off and as he walked across like the centre of the courtyard...

0:41:010:41:05

..he got about 20 metres in front of me and then stepped on the IED.

0:41:060:41:10

EXPLOSION

0:41:100:41:12

'You're looking at compound walls that are kind of 12, 15 foot high,

0:41:170:41:22

'the dust cloud went above it, and sat on top of the dust cloud,'

0:41:220:41:25

was the right angle of someone's foot and lower leg,

0:41:250:41:30

and looking at it, Andy's boot was distinctive

0:41:300:41:35

because I'd tried it on in Cyprus.

0:41:350:41:37

I remember screaming for the boss as I was running towards him.

0:41:420:41:46

I was screaming, "Boss" that high that it sounded like a baby screaming.

0:41:460:41:51

I waited for the dust to settle and the boss was lying in the crater

0:41:510:41:55

that the IED had made when it had gone off.

0:41:550:41:59

It was then that we realised he was missing the lower part of his leg.

0:42:010:42:05

Captain Griffiths asked for Simon Cohoon,

0:42:080:42:11

who'd served under him on their previous tour.

0:42:110:42:14

I basically had hold of his hand, reassuring him,

0:42:140:42:17

telling him, "You're going to be all right.

0:42:170:42:19

"You'll be back cracking on in a couple of months", you know.

0:42:190:42:22

I was quite emotionally upset that it had been him.

0:42:250:42:28

Erm...

0:42:280:42:29

I just wanted to get him out, do what I could for him,

0:42:310:42:34

get him off the ground, basically.

0:42:340:42:36

The zap number came through and it's the last four numbers of your regimental number

0:42:420:42:46

and the first two numbers of your name,

0:42:460:42:49

and it came though and I immediately checked my book to see who it is.

0:42:490:42:53

And I couldn't see anybody,

0:42:530:42:55

and I thought this isn't right, who is this?

0:42:550:42:58

I checked again, and I didn't check the officers,

0:42:580:43:01

I never check the officers.

0:43:010:43:03

Then I said, "Send it again" and they kept sending the same one.

0:43:030:43:07

I couldn't see.

0:43:070:43:08

Then I saw that it was Captain Griffiths, and I completely dismissed it,

0:43:080:43:12

I went, "There's no Way." Got on the net again

0:43:120:43:15

and went, "Send me, just tell me who it is."

0:43:150:43:18

And that's when I heard it's Captain Griffiths.

0:43:180:43:21

At Bastion, all aircraft were grounded because of a sandstorm.

0:43:280:43:32

Jon Singh, who'd evacuated Darren Deady 24 hours earlier,

0:43:350:43:39

was still on call when news of the Category A casualty came in.

0:43:390:43:45

The operations officer came in and said, "There's a British Cat Alpha.

0:43:450:43:48

"I've told them you're not going." To which I replied, "We are going".

0:43:480:43:54

There's no part of your training that says, "When the visibility is down to this

0:43:540:43:58

"and you've got a guy bleeding out with no time to talk it through,

0:43:580:44:00

"this is what you do". Nothing's ever been written for that.

0:44:000:44:03

Jonny Singh was about to rewrite the rules for flying a Chinook

0:44:030:44:08

in low visibility.

0:44:080:44:10

I explained my plan to Steve over the radio

0:44:110:44:14

and said, "Right, we're going in low level

0:44:140:44:16

"and we're going to follow you and you use the flare".

0:44:160:44:19

I can barely see the other end of the runway and part of me is,

0:44:190:44:23

a fairly large part of me is thinking, "This is really stupid."

0:44:230:44:27

The plan was to fly closely behind an Apache helicopter,

0:44:290:44:33

which has the technology to see in poor conditions.

0:44:330:44:37

If Singh lost sight of it, he would be flying blind.

0:44:370:44:40

One of the medics filmed the flight.

0:44:430:44:45

Jonny was saying on the radio, "We cannot lose the Apache, we cannot lose it."

0:44:490:44:53

So it was all eyes forward, it's literally our sort of lifeline.

0:44:530:44:57

It's like holding the apron strings of your mum, sort of thing, you can't let go of it.

0:44:570:45:02

I do remember at one point, we were slowly climbing away

0:45:020:45:06

because I could see the ground and I was happy.

0:45:060:45:08

I was sort of drifting upwards to get away from it

0:45:080:45:11

and Jon coming over the radio saying, "Descend! Descend!"

0:45:110:45:14

They were losing visual clarity with the ground and couldn't see.

0:45:140:45:17

There was a bit of a sense of relief when all of a sudden Jon shouted out, "On the left".

0:45:270:45:32

He saw the smoke and the pilot performed an aggressive manoeuvre

0:45:320:45:36

just to sort of bring the aircraft to a breathtaking stop if you like,

0:45:360:45:41

just really stood it on its tail.

0:45:410:45:43

Sergeant Wilson carried his boss on board.

0:45:480:45:51

'I leant down and told him that we we'd see him in Cyprus

0:45:580:46:01

'and see him in a couple of weeks cos we knew we weren't far off going home'

0:46:010:46:05

and even after all that happened...

0:46:050:46:10

..he'd managed to say... He got the back of me neck

0:46:120:46:17

and pulled me down and said, "Thank you".

0:46:170:46:20

So, even the state he was in,

0:46:230:46:25

you know, he was still thinking of others rather than himself.

0:46:250:46:30

With Captain Griffiths on the helicopter,

0:46:380:46:40

the company withdrew back to the friendly forces' base.

0:46:400:46:44

EXPLOSIONS

0:46:460:46:49

But the Taliban were close behind and getting into position to attack.

0:46:540:46:58

GUNFIRE

0:47:010:47:02

That's like when it hit home, you know, that was it then, I was,

0:47:020:47:07

I was like the platoon commander from that point.

0:47:070:47:10

GUNFIRE

0:47:100:47:12

And we've still got a job to do and the boss would want us to do it

0:47:120:47:16

like the way we have been doing.

0:47:160:47:17

It was, "How much further are we going to have to go with this?"

0:47:220:47:26

We keep dishing them blows but they keep giving us ones as well,

0:47:260:47:30

'so rather than give them a bloody nose, let's knock them out and let's finish it.'

0:47:300:47:35

SHOUTING

0:47:350:47:38

'Everyone was happy.'

0:47:490:47:51

You felt a sense of achievement like you would do in a war,

0:47:520:47:57

you know, you're fighting an enemy, he's trying to kill you,

0:47:570:48:00

you're trying to kill him and, you know, one of yous has got to die.

0:48:000:48:05

Arnhem Company's mission was coming to an end.

0:48:090:48:13

A day later Captain Griffiths and Kingsman Deady

0:48:210:48:25

were flown back together to be treated side-by-side in Birmingham.

0:48:250:48:29

Very early we went to the hospital, briefed by the intensive care team,

0:48:390:48:44

briefed by the doctors, so we knew what his injuries were.

0:48:440:48:48

Then really walked into the ward

0:48:480:48:51

to see him, and it was shocking.

0:48:510:48:55

But he was still alive.

0:49:030:49:05

You'd sit outside all day

0:49:150:49:17

and you'd get to see him for five minutes, that's all you'd get.

0:49:170:49:21

I got upset and one of the nurses come and he said, "What's to do?"

0:49:230:49:27

I said, "I can't even cuddle him, I can't get to him,"

0:49:270:49:30

cos you could just about hold his hand,

0:49:300:49:32

and he said, "Course you can" and he actually moved his bed.

0:49:320:49:37

He said, "Anytime", so as I could go up and give him a hug.

0:49:370:49:41

'We got to know Julie.

0:49:450:49:47

'You are all living in that same hope that you've got to have.

0:49:470:49:53

'It's a period of time when you feed off each other's strength.'

0:49:530:49:56

'Mike and Sue, you could look at them across the room'

0:49:580:50:02

and you'd know exactly where they were and where you were.

0:50:020:50:05

You didn't... There were no need for words.

0:50:050:50:08

After nearly a week, Andrew regained consciousness.

0:50:110:50:15

His eyes were open, he was looking at us.

0:50:160:50:19

I was talking to him. "Do you know where you are?

0:50:190:50:22

"You've been wounded." I said, "Nod your head if you're understanding,"

0:50:220:50:26

he was nodding his head and he was there with us,

0:50:260:50:28

as conscious as you can be with the sedation they were giving him to help him.

0:50:280:50:33

And, er, he recognised us and it was a really important moment.

0:50:330:50:39

The Brigadier wrote to Sergeant Wilson in Afghanistan.

0:50:450:50:49

"Dear Sergeant Wilson, I write as Andy's father to thank you

0:50:540:50:58

"for what you did in the immediate aftermath of the IED blast that injured him.

0:50:580:51:02

"I cannot begin to imagine the difficulties you faced at the time

0:51:040:51:07

"but I do know you brought order to the chaos and gave him the chance that he now has.

0:51:070:51:11

"Knowing Andy he'll want to know the details and I'm sure you'll give them all over a beer.

0:51:150:51:20

"We are forever in your debt.

0:51:210:51:23

"Kindest regards, Mike Griffiths."

0:51:230:51:26

Six days after the letter was written,

0:51:370:51:40

Andrew's condition deteriorated and he died of his wounds.

0:51:400:51:44

Five days later, Darren Deady also died.

0:51:500:51:54

The lads were all devastated.

0:51:580:52:01

I don't think they really knew what to do with themselves,

0:52:010:52:04

that two...

0:52:040:52:05

..two blokes who we were so confident we still had, had died.

0:52:080:52:13

'They did everything to save him, they got him back

0:52:210:52:24

'and unfortunately he didn't make it, but they can be proud of themselves what they did.'

0:52:240:52:29

That's what I said to the lads.

0:52:310:52:33

You gave me 21 days with my boy and I can never, ever repay that.

0:52:330:52:37

By the time Arnhem Company were heading home to Cyprus,

0:52:480:52:51

they'd lost another man.

0:52:510:52:53

Sergeant Peter Rayner died after he too stood on an IED

0:52:550:52:59

Over the whole tour, Operation Kick Hornet's Nest had been a fleeting moment

0:53:040:53:08

but it had a lasting impact on the men.

0:53:080:53:12

We've lost a lot of lads and I've lost a lot of mates

0:53:170:53:19

and I'd never want to see it as it was all done for no reason,

0:53:190:53:25

or it wasn't worth it.

0:53:250:53:27

I feel a tremendous loss for the people we lost in the operation.

0:53:290:53:34

and I just wish that we could have done more to help them.

0:53:340:53:38

'You can't really put a price on a life, can you?'

0:53:410:53:44

It's upsetting, innit?

0:53:460:53:48

It initiated me to leave the Army.

0:53:520:53:56

It was an operation that I'd never want to go through again.

0:53:560:54:01

'Griff died leading his men as part of a regiment he loved,

0:54:050:54:08

'doing a job he loved.'

0:54:080:54:10

As a fellow soldier, it might sound corny,

0:54:100:54:13

but a great way to go,

0:54:130:54:15

but still, we wish he was here now.

0:54:150:54:18

'I want to personalise it a bit.

0:54:310:54:34

'In late August 2010, the doorbell rang.'

0:54:340:54:37

As soon as I saw it was my boss, I knew it was bad news.

0:54:370:54:40

Today Brigadier Mike Griffiths draws upon his experience,

0:54:400:54:46

training Army personnel who support the families of dead and injured soldiers.

0:54:460:54:51

Our son had stood on an IED in Helmand

0:54:510:54:54

and he was very badly injured, but still alive.

0:54:540:54:57

From that moment on, my world, our world, went upside-down.

0:54:570:55:01

The first thing we had to do...

0:55:010:55:04

'The most difficult thing, since his death, is to come to terms'

0:55:040:55:07

with whether or not it was, erm...

0:55:070:55:10

..in a good cause.

0:55:120:55:13

To not believe it was in a good cause would be to say to all those

0:55:150:55:20

who've given their lives, to all those who've been wounded,

0:55:200:55:24

to all those who've served there that it was not the right thing to do.

0:55:240:55:27

Dying for your country, on operations,

0:55:290:55:32

is something that comes all too often with the job.

0:55:320:55:38

And as long as there are young men and young women...

0:55:400:55:43

..brave enough to step forward...

0:55:500:55:53

..we're a nation to be proud of.

0:56:000:56:02

British troops will stop fighting in Afghanistan in 2014.

0:56:280:56:32

It's your response.

0:56:320:56:34

-I thought I'd film you, baby.

-But two young officers recently led their men to Helmand Province...

0:56:340:56:39

Death Valley kind of gave it away a little bit.

0:56:390:56:41

It was, "Oh, Christ!"

0:56:410:56:43

..to find a war that is far from over.

0:56:430:56:47

GUNFIRE

0:56:470:56:49

SCREAMING

0:56:490:56:51

That's how serious it's getting out here.

0:56:510:56:53

You always think this could happen and that you could lose a guy.

0:56:530:56:57

You never think about how it's going to feel.

0:56:590:57:01

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:57:150:57:18

A daring mission deep into enemy territory is captured on camera by soldiers during Afghanistan's bloodiest summer on record.

Troop surges in 2010 forced the Taliban to fight dirty, using more IEDs than ever. Against this backdrop a 100-strong company from 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster's Regiment was deployed into one of the most dangerous areas of Helmand, tasked with protecting a vital road link.

During a heavy firefight, Kingsman Darren Deady was shot in the neck. He collapsed into the lap of Sergeant Mark Wilson who was filming on a helmet camera. The operation later claimed the life of Captain Andrew Griffiths - the first child of a serving officer to die in Afghanistan. A dust storm grounded all aircraft in Bastion, but two brave helicopter pilots rewrote the rulebook, flying in formation to navigate so they could evacuate him. Both men were treated side by side in the UK, but died of their injuries. Andrew's dad, Brigadier Mike Griffiths, the colonel of the regiment, now uses his personal experience to train 'visiting' officers who break the news of injuries and fatalities to servicemen's families.