The Lost Platoon Our War


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The Lost Platoon

Stories of life on the frontline in Afghanistan. How a Welsh Guards platoon fell into a deadly ambush yards from the isolated mud fort which was their patrol base.


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

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Where I lived you either work in a chicken factory or went on the dole.

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It was basically a case of, "What am I going to do with my life?"

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And I was 15 years old and I decided to go and join the army.

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Luke Langley is 22. He's going to Afghanistan for the second time.

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See that, yeah?

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You know when Daddy goes away, isn't that far away?

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You're all the way there, Daddy's going to be down there.

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The first time Langley went to war in 2009

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his platoon held an isolated fort deep in no-man's land.

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That used to be Daddy's boss, that did.

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Seven Platoon's commander was Lt Mark Evison,

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a rising star in the Welsh Guards.

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At the time, British forces were overstretched

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in one of the most dangerous areas of Helmand.

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"We are walking a tightrope.

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"Injuries will be sustained

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"which I will not be able to treat

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"and deaths could occur which could have been stopped."

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Seven Platoon's lifeline

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was their ability to summon devastating firepower

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at a few minutes' notice.

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This film is about the day that lifeline failed...

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..and Seven Platoon had to fight alone.

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It was the most scared I've ever been in all my life.

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I said, "We're on our own, bud. We haven't got the fire support."

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I've never felt as lonely as I did in that ditch.

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In Afghan there was never "Look after number one."

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It's always, "Look after numbers two and three

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"and numbers two and three will always look after you."

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And that's the way we were that fucking day.

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Seven Platoon's commander, Lt Mark Evison, was 26 when he went to war.

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"Afghanistan 2009. 15 April.

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"It is always the hardest part to start a journal.

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"Where to begin?

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"Anticipation, excitement, fear,

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"all words which could be used to describe

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"what one should be feeling right now

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"but the only one that I really feel is uncertainty."

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He was in my platoon at Sandhurst.

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He was one of those guys that sort of, everything seemed effortless,

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which is pretty painful, when for you it's a struggle.

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For a lot of us, you want to be a hero,

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and Mark was exactly the same

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he wanted his moment in Afghanistan

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to be a hero, to lead his men well.

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In the weeks running up

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there was lots of black humour being bandied around, as you can imagine.

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I asked him for his motorcycle if anything happened.

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He asked me for my DVD collection. It was that sort of atmosphere.

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A lot of officers try to distance themselves from the men.

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You listen to them because they command,

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but you haven't got that friendship bond.

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But with Mark, you did.

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When we were back in the UK

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he'd go out drinking with you.

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He was just a really nice bloke.

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But at the same time he could turn and be the officer

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and the commander who he really had to be at the time.

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No-one took him for granted just cos he was a nice bloke.

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I though I was fit until I met him.

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Bloody hell! He was a fit guy.

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"007" they called him.

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"I just want to get stuck in and see for myself what it is like.

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"How will I react with my first contact?

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"Will I freeze, or hopefully prove my worth?"

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In the spring of 2009 the Welsh Guards

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took over a string of remote bases in Southern Helmand.

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Mark Evison and his platoon

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were assigned to a fort known as Haji Alem.

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Evison was delayed by a brief illness.

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Seven Platoon went on to Haji Alem without him.

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This is Spooner, rooting for a fag!

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Like many British soldiers before them,

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they recorded their war on video.

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Few in Seven Platoon had seen combat.

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Most were barely out of their teens.

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I think I was, like, born to do it.

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I did want to join the Paras,

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first thought, then obviously, being Welsh and that,

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I thought, Welsh Guards.

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The only thing I wanted to do was I wanted to go on patrol

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and carry a weapon.

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You felt powerful. You do feel like you're untouchable.

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I loved that weapon.

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I were really young and my mum asked me,

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"What do you want for Christmas?"

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And I said, "I want a trifle."

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She went, "A trifle?! With cream?"

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I went, "No, with bullets!"

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I joined up, wanted to got to war,

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to have a blast, fire my weapon, and having fun.

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I wanted to be a soldier, bring peace,

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see the world, like.

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When you're a scrapper, you're a scrapper.

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In my eyes the infantry was the one, because they want the scrappers.

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That boy inside me that joined the fight, it must have been because

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I wanted to take men to fight, I wanted to lead them to fight.

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Haji Alem was 4km from the main Forward Operating Base in the area.

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Haji Alem was like an island in a sea of fucking Afghans.

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In the middle of nowhere basically.

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It looked like, you know one of those Western forts you see?

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Back in the Cowboys and Indians days?

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It looked exactly like that.

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Just a keep with a metal shitty door at the front.

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It must have been about 50 by 60 metres.

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Like a football pitch basically. It's got massive sangars in it.

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Owned by some drug lord.

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Used to have his family and his own little army in there.

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So it had four big towers which stood four, five metres tall.

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DISTANT GUNFIRE

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It was dead quiet until you heard the odd gunfire from somewhere else,

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either a FOB or a PB, 10k away.

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The crack, "Tshuu!" Cos it was obviously that quiet at night.

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You know, just, "Papapapapa! Papapapapa!"

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The sky just feels so empty really, I know there's stars there,

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but you just think to yourself,

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I'm here, and I was in Rhyl not so long ago.

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Where we was, was a very, very dodgy place

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The first road, basically, is the enemy FLET.

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The forward line, basically, where they can shoot at you.

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A few kilometres down the road

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was the biggest Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan.

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The Taliban had, like, a massive training base

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in Southern Helmand, called Marjah.

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We were basically there as the buffer to stop them

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infiltrating into the rest of Afghanistan.

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That would be the first contact

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a lot of the young Taliban coming through would have,

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would be fighting us.

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Just use us as target practice for their blokes.

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One of the lads used to nickname the Taliban

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the hide and seek champions of the world, cos you'd never see 'em.

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I've seen about two. They just literally vanish.

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You don't even know where they go.

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We were all, "Yeah, I want to go to Afghan, I want to kill people

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"I want to get the first confirmed kill

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"in, like, fucking North Wales or wherever."

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But when it first started to happen

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and people are actually in contact

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I think they started to realise what they were actually fucking in for.

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On Seven Platoon's first day at Haji Alem,

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shots were fired from across the canal.

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Within five minutes I just seen a village elder come round the corner

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with about four people, carrying, like, a fucking stretcher.

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In the crossfire, the son of a village elder had been hit.

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We done our best, we treated him as if he was one of our own.

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The American Black Hawk come in.

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When it lands it's like the scene out of The Mummy

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where the sandstorm comes in, it just goes, "Wwccchhht!"

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Sweeps through fucking everything.

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It was a 15-minute flight from Haji Alem

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to the operating theatre at Camp Bastion, 30k away.

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But then we heard three hours later that he died.

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So that was a bit of a fucking wake-up call.

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I were thinking, "Fucking hell, it IS real."

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The next day, Mark Evison arrived at Haji Alem

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to take command of his platoon.

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"It is good being back.

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"The Platoon cheered me when I turned up

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"and so for some strange reason I think they must have missed me."

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This was a man that wanted to take the fight to the Taliban

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and knew what he was on about.

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The first thing he wanted to do was go and just study all the ground,

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what routes the Taliban would be using,

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and their possible firing points.

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Seven Platoon had been at Haji Alem a week

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when Evison took them out on their first major patrol.

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"Around the fort, it is hard patrolling country.

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"There is not much cover and therefore movement is restricted.

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"Extraction back is difficult."

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Their route would take them just a few hundred metres from the fort.

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The patrol moved down irrigation ditches

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which carried water to the opium fields.

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It's like the most horrible, stinkiest pool

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you can ever imagine in all your life.

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Full of shit. Absolutely fucking stunk.

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But that's what we mainly used to walk to compounds and that,

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and obviously to keep us safe.

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GUNFIRE

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You think to yourself, "Fuck me! This is really happening.

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"I'm here, I'm getting fucking shot at here. For fuck's sake!

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"What's going on?"

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Just turned 20 about two weeks ago, there I was.

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The first time you get shot at, you hear it,

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and you see, like, dust kicking up,

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and you just stand there like a deer caught in the headlights.

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"I'm actually getting shot at! I can't be getting shot at!"

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It would take just minutes

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for the platoon's two-man fire-support team

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to bring massive firepower down on the Taliban.

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Andrew Spooner was in charge of fire-support.

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His number two Steven Gadsby was wearing the video camera.

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Clever lad. He has like a degree so he's a lot more intelligent than me.

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I knew if something happened to me

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Gadsby would be right there next to me like he was all the way through.

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Once a patrol called for support, an Apache attack helicopter

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- or AH - could be launched from Bastion within minutes.

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The fire-support team could also call in long-range artillery

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from Forward Operating Base Silab, 4km away.

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You all right, there, mate?

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On this occasion, an Apache attack helicopter was already close by.

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The fire control radio gave Gadsby and Spooner

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instant communications with British bases

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and with the Apache pilot hovering nearby.

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# Let's get it on! #

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With an attack helicopter overhead, the Taliban quickly melted away.

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As Evison's platoon patrolled back to the fort,

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the Taliban struck again.

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Spooner radioed Camp Bastion

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to get the Apache helicopter back overhead.

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There was no reply. The fire control radio had gone dead.

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Hello, Witchcraft 42, Witchcraft 42, this is Witchcraft!

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Hello, Witchcraft 42, Witchcraft 42, this is Witchcraft 44 Bravo!

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Radio check. Over.

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The patrol had lost a vital link

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to the long-range firepower which was available to back them up.

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And the Taliban were closing in.

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The fort - and safety - lay across the canal.

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But Evison and his men

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would have to get back without any outside help.

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Evison launched a handheld missile

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to give the platoon some cover as they crossed the canal.

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Go on son! Fuck off!

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Wahey!

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Go on!

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Go on, boys.

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As they prepared to run across to the fort,

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Evison's interpreter noticed bullets coming from behind them.

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While Evison regrouped the platoon,

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Spooner was able to inspect his fire-control radio.

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The fire-control radio was a satellite radio,

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far more capable than the standard army radio.

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The cable from the antenna to the radio were broken, we snapped it.

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So that radio were useless.

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What had started as a routine patrol

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had turned into a dash for home under enemy fire.

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GUNFIRE

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It had been Mark Evison's first experience of combat.

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"More luck than anything else

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"saw the platoon back behind sturdy walls

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"and laughing at the contact we'd just been in."

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It's a fucking cracking buzz, like,

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everyone going, "Whooar!", like that, fucking loving it.

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I loved the fucking feeling, I did, I just loved getting shot at.

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Obviously not in that way, but the feeling, the adrenaline rush.

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The combat high you feel is amazing but at the same time

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you don't realise that it's probably fragging with your head in a big way.

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Your body shakes, your stomach turns, everything slows down.

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You don't want more, but you want more at the same time.

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"Come on, let's fucking go out for one more! Let's go and smash 'em!"

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Then you realise, then fucking you calm down a bit,

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and you've got to go again tomorrow.

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"For me it is still the fear of making a wrong decision

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"which sits heavily on my mind.

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"I am responsible for every person within this Patrol Base

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"and I fear we will not always be as lucky as we were today.

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"At least today I proved to myself

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"that I will not freeze the next time I get shot at.

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"I do not expect this to be in the distant future."

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The two dozen men of Seven Platoon in their mud fort

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tried to make the best of life under siege.

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"The fort is now fairly sorted.

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"There are showers, one a week,

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"a chill out area with BBQ - nothing yet to cook - and a gym.

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"The loos are fairly basic with just a hole in the ground for pissing

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"and an ammo tin for turds,

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"which must be burnt by the unfortunate individual

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"who fills it up.

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"We could be here for six months

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"and so it is good to get it up and running to a good standard

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"so the boys can relax."

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You know when life is bad

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when all you look forward to is a contact to keep you busy.

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I remember sitting around, thinking Afghan

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wasn't what people made it out to be, like, it wasn't war.

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Apart from one or two shoot-outs nothing had really happened.

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"The biggest fear I have is keeping the morale up of the men.

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"Life is hard in these forward patrol bases

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"and we need all the morale we can get."

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If you weren't on patrol life were very dull.

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So we made our own sources of entertainment.

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And it got disgusting.

0:19:000:19:02

Deal or no Deal with ration boxes.

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Squaddies Got Talent.

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Me, Barclay and Mr Evison was the judges.

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In the final we popped a smoke grenade

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as if walking on to a stage, and things like that.

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Everyone had to come up and do a thing.

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Me and Hobbs couldn't think of one

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so me and Hobbs just did the disappearing act.

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We got on there and then went, and they were there for 20 minutes,

0:19:320:19:35

"Where have them two cunts gone?!"

0:19:350:19:37

I had a pack of cards and I walked over

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and said, "Right we're going to play a game of Cowboys and Indians.

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"I'm going to be an Indian and I want the judges to be the cowboys."

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Squirted a pack of cards and said, "Round them up, cowboys."

0:19:480:19:51

They just turned round to me and said

0:19:510:19:53

"The funniest part of that is going to be watching you pick them up."

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Lucas ate a raw onion then downed a bottle of water and started spewing.

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He was sick into a cup, and then he would drink his cup full of sick.

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Because you're in such an extreme place

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normal things and jokes don't seem as funny

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cos everything else is so extreme,

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so I think your sense of humour matches it.

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I tried doing a magic trick, and that were shit, I got booed off.

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There was loads of horrible things,

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my mind's tried to block out half of them!

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Good memories, they are.

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A kilometre away from the fort was a key road junction

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known as Green 5.

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But the fort didn't have a clear line of sight to Green 5,

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and the Taliban were able to plant bombs there unhindered.

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We had no eyes on Green 5 hence why we got cut off

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because Green 5 was our main supply route

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and they used to IED it to the max.

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It became eventually a huge operation just to get to us,

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which took a couple of days.

0:20:580:21:00

It was a logistical nightmare.

0:21:000:21:02

The spare parts Spooner needed for his fire-control radio

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had to come by road via Green 5.

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I didn't have a spare antenna for this, not the same cross-wing one.

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They were like rocking-horse shit, they were in rare supply.

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It would take another two weeks for the replacement antenna

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to reach Haji Alem.

0:21:210:21:23

"7th May. Our first base attack last night."

0:21:250:21:29

GUNFIRE

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In his diary, Evison noted the name of his opposite number,

0:21:310:21:34

the Taliban commander whose men were closing in on the fort.

0:21:340:21:38

"Ferooz was again mentioned on the ICOM

0:21:380:21:43

"as the main player instigating the attack.

0:21:430:21:45

"The signal strength was high, showing his proximity to the fort.

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"The most frustrating thing is that they take us on, on their terms.

0:21:500:21:53

"It is almost impossible to identify the firing points.

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"Without that knowledge I cannot make decisions and I'm fairly useless.

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"There is a definite lack of steer from above

0:22:030:22:06

"as to how to play this one.

0:22:060:22:08

"I am yet to be given a definite mission

0:22:080:22:11

"and clarity as to my role out here."

0:22:110:22:13

On the 9th of May, two weeks after arriving at the fort,

0:22:150:22:19

Evison set out on his second major patrol,

0:22:190:22:22

towards a group of compounds across the canal.

0:22:220:22:25

They were known Taliban firing points

0:22:250:22:28

so Mr Evison wanted to see what the fuck they were doing basically,

0:22:280:22:31

he wanted to have a look.

0:22:310:22:33

The compounds were a stone's throw

0:22:330:22:34

from where Evison's men had been ambushed a week ago.

0:22:340:22:37

I said to the boss, I said,

0:22:370:22:40

"Sir, if we go up there we're going to get smashed"

0:22:400:22:43

Spooner's fire control radio was still out of action.

0:22:450:22:48

So we had to revert back to the old sort of radio,

0:22:480:22:52

the Bowman radio, which the range and chance of getting

0:22:520:22:55

a signal on that is quite... it's not as easy.

0:22:550:22:58

The army's standard Bowman radio used a waveband

0:23:000:23:03

that was prone to atmospheric disruption.

0:23:030:23:07

I can remember getting across the bridge across the canal,

0:23:070:23:10

went to send a radio check, wasn't working, couldn't get through,

0:23:100:23:13

and I just thought we were in a blackspot for some reason.

0:23:130:23:16

I remember a couple of the lads

0:23:160:23:18

saying they were having difficulty on their radios.

0:23:180:23:20

The most important thing in battle is comms.

0:23:200:23:23

And if we didn't have comms back to 2 Company HQ,

0:23:230:23:28

i.e. zero, we were dead.

0:23:280:23:30

As soon as I lost radio communications out of Haji Alem,

0:23:300:23:33

I wish I'd turned round and said to Lt Evison "We should go back."

0:23:330:23:39

I thought I could have got it further down the road.

0:23:390:23:41

There was no reason for me to think otherwise.

0:23:410:23:43

I thought I was just in a black spot.

0:23:430:23:45

Carry on, we'll pick them up, it happens all the time with radios.

0:23:450:23:49

The civvies were just dropping their tools and running away.

0:23:490:23:52

No one was there to be seen

0:23:520:23:53

so we knew something was obviously happening.

0:23:530:23:55

As Evison's patrol approached the crossroads

0:23:550:23:59

his interpreter was listening in on the Taliban.

0:23:590:24:02

300 metres into the patrol the chatter picked up saying,

0:24:030:24:06

"Yeah, they've got eyes on us."

0:24:060:24:07

I can remember Mr Evison passing it down,

0:24:070:24:10

"Tell 'em they're getting ready, they're going to be opening fire"

0:24:100:24:14

We heard a scream come down the ICOM radio pretty much saying, "Fire!"

0:24:140:24:18

GUNFIRE

0:24:180:24:20

-Fucking get out. They're coming. Is that recording?

-Yeah.

0:24:200:24:24

GUNFIRE

0:24:240:24:26

Spooner, wearing the camera, took cover next to Langley.

0:24:260:24:31

It was just a shit-storm.

0:24:310:24:34

No crack and thump, it was just, "Doof-doof! Doof-doof! Doof-doof!"

0:24:340:24:37

As if it was our own blokes firing.

0:24:370:24:39

Cos they must have been about 40, 50 metres away.

0:24:390:24:41

From that we got hit by, I think it was two or three firing points.

0:24:410:24:44

I remember seeing an RPG coming,

0:24:460:24:48

just come over the fucking top of us.

0:24:480:24:50

And then they contacted us from the right,

0:24:500:24:52

from about four, five firing points.

0:24:520:24:54

Contact right!

0:24:540:24:56

That's where I basically just grabbed my LMG

0:24:560:25:00

and just swung it round, and let off, like, a burst of 20 rounds.

0:25:000:25:04

So now we're in a fire-fight.

0:25:040:25:06

GUNFIRE

0:25:060:25:07

At that point we'd lost all comms pretty much.

0:25:070:25:10

You have dead spots, basically, like mobile phones.

0:25:100:25:13

Me and Spooner just had to revert

0:25:130:25:15

to being an infantry soldiers that day

0:25:150:25:17

and just join in with the sections.

0:25:170:25:18

By this point, if Spooner's radio been working,

0:25:200:25:23

he would have called in artillery fire

0:25:230:25:27

from the forward operating base 4k away.

0:25:270:25:30

If we'd had a replacement for that little cable

0:25:310:25:33

I'd maybe have got guns, mortars,

0:25:330:25:35

I would have got some sort of aircraft.

0:25:350:25:37

I would have jumped at the opportunity to call an Apache.

0:25:370:25:40

Me and Gadsby would have been doing our usual thing of giggling

0:25:400:25:43

while we blow up the Taliban.

0:25:430:25:45

But we didn't and Mark got hurt.

0:25:450:25:47

The 20-man patrol was divided into two sections.

0:25:490:25:54

One led by Mark Evison, the other by Lance Sergeant Peek.

0:25:540:25:59

Mark Evison is in clean view of one of the compounds

0:26:030:26:06

we was getting fired at.

0:26:060:26:08

Peek shouted across to Mr Evison, "Get in the compound!"

0:26:080:26:12

And he pushed into Compound 1.

0:26:120:26:16

Evison's section was now inside Compound 1.

0:26:160:26:19

Langley and Spooner were with Lance Sergeant Peek

0:26:190:26:24

in the irrigation ditch across the road.

0:26:240:26:27

And something whizzed past me and Langley.

0:26:340:26:36

Fuck!

0:26:360:26:39

"Did that hit the fucking wall? We're getting contacted from behind now!"

0:26:390:26:42

Fuck! They're firing straight down the road,

0:26:420:26:44

it just hit the fucking wall!

0:26:440:26:46

That fucking wall!

0:26:460:26:48

So at this point now, we're in the middle

0:26:480:26:51

and they were just shooting at us.

0:26:510:26:54

I think it was something like 15 firing points.

0:26:540:26:57

The Taliban were smart,

0:26:570:26:58

we were fucked from the very beginning of that patrol.

0:26:580:27:00

Cut down there again?

0:27:000:27:02

GUNFIRE

0:27:020:27:04

Where did that come from?!

0:27:040:27:06

If I were them, I'd have been pissing my pants laughing.

0:27:060:27:09

"Look at these idiots, we're going to shoot them,

0:27:090:27:12

"they're getting brassed up."

0:27:120:27:14

You could tell we were outnumbered, we were basically just surrounded,

0:27:140:27:18

getting shot at like fish in a barrel.

0:27:180:27:20

What? That's coming from behind us, dude!

0:27:200:27:24

They had trapped us in a 360 ambush.

0:27:240:27:27

They'd started firing in on automatic fire

0:27:270:27:30

into Compound 1, where Mark Evison was.

0:27:300:27:34

Within the walls of Compound 1

0:27:340:27:36

Mark Evison couldn't see what was happening outside.

0:27:360:27:39

And he couldn't get a radio signal.

0:27:390:27:41

We couldn't get comms. So everything's word of mouth then.

0:27:420:27:46

So, old school. So everybody's screaming.

0:27:460:27:48

To get a radio signal,

0:27:480:27:50

Evison stepped into the doorway of Compound 1.

0:27:500:27:53

I told him to get the fuck back in there, like,

0:27:530:27:57

they're coming from everywhere.

0:27:570:27:58

And that's when the burst

0:27:580:28:00

of three to five rounds come through that doorway.

0:28:000:28:03

He actually just stood, took it as if he was fine,

0:28:060:28:10

speaking on the radio until he seen a bit of blood on his hand,

0:28:100:28:13

he actually realised that he'd been shot.

0:28:130:28:16

His face just went pale.

0:28:160:28:18

I heard Lance Corporal Evans screaming, "Man down!

0:28:190:28:23

"The boss is down! The boss is down!"

0:28:230:28:26

In the ditch, a stone's throw from Compound 1,

0:28:260:28:28

Langley and Spooner didn't know their commander had been hit.

0:28:280:28:32

I heard somebody scream.

0:28:390:28:41

I was like, "No, it's probably somebody just shitting themselves

0:28:410:28:43

"or something like that."

0:28:430:28:46

And this bright red ginger head poked up over the wall

0:28:460:28:48

which was Evans 74.

0:28:480:28:51

I got on a haystack myself and shouted over to them.

0:28:510:28:53

"Man down." That's when it's time for you to man up.

0:29:000:29:03

Which is what you'd expect of your mate if it was you.

0:29:070:29:09

"Oh, fuck. Fucking hell, who is this now?!"

0:29:100:29:13

Then I thought, "Here we fucking go."

0:29:130:29:15

Everyone expects it eventually, it's just a matter of time.

0:29:160:29:21

Medic, we've got a man down!

0:29:210:29:23

He'll have that fucker.

0:29:230:29:25

Inside Compound 1, Guardsman James, who'd had first aid training,

0:29:250:29:30

attended to Evison.

0:29:300:29:32

I took his body armour off.

0:29:320:29:34

And...it was just blood everywhere.

0:29:340:29:38

He had a gunshot wound to his shoulder.

0:29:380:29:44

I was an emotional wreck.

0:29:460:29:49

I was crying, you know, and...

0:29:490:29:51

He lost consciousness on me.

0:29:530:29:55

I punched him into the chest.

0:29:550:29:57

I managed to get him back round.

0:29:570:30:00

In the ditch, Langley and Spooner

0:30:000:30:04

heard another shout from Compound 1.

0:30:040:30:06

Langley wanted to put up a smoke screen

0:30:150:30:18

so the medic could run across the road to Compound 1.

0:30:180:30:22

There was a bit of a fucking fuck-about with the smoke grenade

0:30:220:30:26

He made a right meal of it.

0:30:290:30:30

"You skinny little rat, you can't even pull the pin out of a grenade!"

0:30:320:30:35

Twisting it and pulling it, and he chucks it...

0:30:380:30:40

..and nothing happens.

0:30:430:30:44

I turned round to Lacy and was about to say, "Are you going anyway?"

0:30:440:30:47

And he just went, "Get me the fuck over there."

0:30:470:30:49

The guys pointed me to the compound the door I needed to go through.

0:30:490:30:53

I was like, "Right, rapid fire!"

0:30:530:30:54

We just unleashed hell on the fucking Taliban.

0:30:570:31:00

HEAVY GUNFIRE

0:31:010:31:04

We sent a wall of lead flying at them.

0:31:040:31:07

If I was at the other end of that I wouldn't want to hang around.

0:31:070:31:10

Lacy got about half way across.

0:31:100:31:12

The guns jammed. There was no fire.

0:31:120:31:14

Spooner had to change a mag.

0:31:160:31:17

I had a stoppage and then Gadsby had a stoppage on his LMG.

0:31:180:31:22

-Aaargh!

-You all right?

0:31:220:31:24

Running for my life basically.

0:31:240:31:25

I managed to run past the door, couple of metres past the door,

0:31:250:31:28

saw it in the corner of my eye, ran back.

0:31:280:31:30

There was fucking rounds pinging off the wall behind him

0:31:300:31:33

like there was in a film trick, like, chasing him,

0:31:330:31:35

and fuck knows how he got in the compound alive.

0:31:350:31:38

As the medic examined Evison, a guardsman in Compound 1

0:31:390:31:44

got through to Lance Sergeant Peek on the radio.

0:31:440:31:46

All I could hear was, "It's the boss."

0:31:460:31:49

Old muggins got to step up,

0:31:490:31:51

and I got to become the platoon commander.

0:31:510:31:53

Peek now had to relay this information back to Two Zero,

0:32:200:32:24

the forward operating base 4k away.

0:32:240:32:27

It was four minutes since Evison had been shot.

0:32:380:32:40

A 9-liner is a standard casualty report.

0:32:450:32:48

At first I got told that he got shot in the hand.

0:32:480:32:52

So I sent up my 9-liner as a walking casualty.

0:32:520:32:57

"Walking wounded" meant that Evison would be listed

0:33:000:33:04

as a low-priority casualty.

0:33:040:33:06

In the chaos, Peek hadn't yet realised that Evison couldn't walk.

0:33:060:33:10

At this point then I got a platoon of fucking boys,

0:33:160:33:19

I'm in a 360 ambush, I got a casualty,

0:33:190:33:22

I didn't go into the careers office thinking

0:33:220:33:24

I was going to be doing that, let's just put it that way.

0:33:240:33:27

Spooner warned Peek to request a Black Hawk helicopter,

0:33:350:33:39

call sign, "Shocker", and not a large twin-engined Chinook.

0:33:390:33:43

We had nowhere to land a Chinook.

0:33:430:33:45

We couldn't secure an area big enough

0:33:450:33:47

so if they send a Chinook we're fucked, how can we deal with that?

0:33:470:33:51

So he needed to get that message across.

0:33:510:33:53

Because my radio wasn't working that day, I achieved nothing.

0:34:030:34:07

I achieved nothing. My purpose there... I didn't have one.

0:34:070:34:11

I asked for mortars, I asked for Apache,

0:34:110:34:15

I asked for anything and everything.

0:34:150:34:19

Two Zero needed to know which compounds

0:34:300:34:32

the Taliban were firing from.

0:34:320:34:34

But Peek's radio kept breaking up.

0:34:340:34:37

I was trying to explain where I'm getting fired upon.

0:34:370:34:40

So I'm telling them where I was,

0:34:400:34:42

but it kept going "uh-uh-uh", like, sort of blanking out.

0:34:420:34:46

So I'm telling them which compound I'm getting fired upon,

0:34:460:34:50

however, they couldn't work out where I was.

0:34:500:34:52

I looked at Langley, I said, "We're on our own, bud.

0:34:590:35:02

"We haven't got the fire support."

0:35:020:35:05

He just looked at me as if, "What the fuck are we going to do?"

0:35:050:35:10

I was in the ditch, and I thought, "I'm going to die here."

0:35:100:35:13

It was the most scared I've ever been in all my life.

0:35:130:35:17

We're on the ground and there's no help, basically.

0:35:170:35:22

You can't stop and think, or really be scared,

0:35:220:35:25

you can't let your emotions take over you,

0:35:250:35:28

you've got to be like a machine

0:35:280:35:30

and just fight through it, and just keep on going.

0:35:300:35:33

The whole platoon becomes... It's a strong bond.

0:35:330:35:38

You love each other, basically.

0:35:410:35:43

A quarter of an hour after being hit,

0:36:100:36:12

Evison was stretchered out of Compound 1

0:36:120:36:15

and over to the irrigation ditch.

0:36:150:36:17

They'd had Taliban in the poppy field, plus the road was heightened.

0:36:180:36:22

So the plan was take him on the stretcher down the irrigation ditch.

0:36:270:36:30

The way back to Haji Alem was down two narrow ditches

0:36:300:36:35

which ran side by side.

0:36:350:36:37

Cos I were giving covering fire I had to take the front ditch.

0:36:370:36:40

An Apache attack helicopter had been sent from Camp Bastion

0:36:450:36:49

to assist the patrol.

0:36:490:36:51

It was heavily armed and looking for targets.

0:36:510:36:55

Spooner told Gadsby to make contact.

0:36:550:36:58

Before Gadsby could react, an order came from Lance Sergeant Peek.

0:37:050:37:08

Gadsby crossed over into the back ditch to help carry Mark Evison.

0:37:150:37:18

I can remember saying, having a laugh with him,

0:37:180:37:21

"You weren't expected that in the morning at breakfast!"

0:37:210:37:24

All that sort of stuff, just to keep him talking.

0:37:240:37:26

If he's talking he's conscious, isn't he?

0:37:260:37:28

He was all right, chilled out, relaxed,

0:37:280:37:31

he had morphine, couldn't feel the pain

0:37:310:37:34

The bullet had sliced through an artery in Mark Evison's shoulder.

0:37:340:37:38

He'd been bleeding heavily now for nearly 20 minutes.

0:37:380:37:42

It was a slow move, the irrigation ditch was probably two-foot wide.

0:37:420:37:45

There was mud everywhere, like, up to your knees.

0:37:450:37:50

It's not a stable stretcher.

0:37:530:37:55

It's a sheet, pretty much, and that was filling up with water,

0:37:550:37:58

and it kept getting heavier and heavier.

0:37:580:38:01

It just seemed to be like a dead weight laid inside a bag.

0:38:010:38:04

So you're all bumping into each other

0:38:040:38:06

and because it was awkward, the boss, I think he slipped off once or twice.

0:38:060:38:11

The stretcher party still had 200 metres to go.

0:38:110:38:14

But they were barely moving.

0:38:140:38:15

Cometh the man, cometh the hour. Joe Korosaya stepped in.

0:38:180:38:21

I asked the medic if I can...

0:38:210:38:26

Is it possible for him to be put on my back?

0:38:260:38:31

I was counting the steps, and there was blood dripping out of him.

0:38:340:38:38

So he told me he was...

0:38:380:38:41

He could feel blood dripping out of his chest.

0:38:410:38:45

It didn't look like him.

0:38:450:38:47

It just looked like a rag doll just covered in blood.

0:38:470:38:50

He took off and I thought, "Look at him go, he's blasting down there."

0:38:530:38:56

Getting shot at, no regard for his own safety,

0:38:560:38:58

just wanted to get his mate out of there.

0:38:580:39:00

"Sir we're going to the PB now.

0:39:000:39:03

"You'll be safe, don't worry."

0:39:030:39:07

Spooner gave covering fire

0:39:070:39:08

as Korosaya powered down the parallel ditch

0:39:080:39:11

carrying Evison on his back.

0:39:110:39:14

We were in contact the entire the way down.

0:39:220:39:24

The Apache attack helicopter had been hovering for ten minutes.

0:39:310:39:35

The pilot couldn't see any Taliban from the air.

0:39:350:39:38

And because the patrol couldn't communicate with Two Zero

0:39:380:39:41

to tell them exactly where the Taliban were,

0:39:410:39:43

the Apache was powerless to help.

0:39:430:39:46

I'm thinking, "This is shit, Andrew.

0:39:480:39:50

"This is shit, this is shit, this is shit."

0:39:500:39:52

I'd never felt as lonely as I did in that ditch.

0:39:580:40:02

Guardsman Korosaya had carried his commander 200 metres

0:40:050:40:10

through the irrigation ditch and up to the compound by the canal.

0:40:100:40:15

He was exhausted.

0:40:150:40:17

Gadsby picked Evison up, and headed for the bridge.

0:40:190:40:23

Over the bridge

0:40:230:40:24

gave me less cover but was a much faster option.

0:40:240:40:27

I could hear all the enemy fire coming in.

0:40:310:40:33

I could hear it hitting the bridge,

0:40:330:40:35

I could hear it go down the canal and hit the water in the canal.

0:40:350:40:39

I was thinking, "You fucking idiot."

0:40:390:40:41

I remember running across and tucking my arms in to my sides.

0:40:410:40:45

If I'm going to get shot in the side, if I put my arms there

0:40:450:40:49

at least it might hit my arm-bone and ricochet off.

0:40:490:40:52

The only thing on our side was they were shit shots.

0:40:520:40:54

If it was us in that position waiting for them

0:40:540:40:56

there wouldn't have been anybody left standing.

0:40:560:41:00

GUNFIRE

0:41:000:41:03

It had taken Seven Platoon

0:41:060:41:08

less than 35 minutes to get Evison back to the fort.

0:41:080:41:12

Assuming a medevac helicopter would touch down in the next few minutes,

0:41:140:41:18

Spooner went to clear the landing area.

0:41:180:41:21

Then he took off his helmet and went to the radio.

0:41:250:41:29

The camera carried on recording the voices of Mark Evison

0:41:360:41:39

and the men trying to keep him alive.

0:41:390:41:41

On the radio, Spooner asked Forward Operating Base Silab

0:41:430:41:48

when the medevac helicopter was due.

0:41:480:41:51

They know Lt Evison had been shot,

0:41:510:41:53

but I can remember speaking to Captain Lambe at Silab,

0:41:530:41:57

asking me to verify, has he been shot in the hand or in the shoulder?

0:41:570:42:00

What aircraft do you want?

0:42:000:42:02

So they didn't even have a clear picture of what were going on either.

0:42:030:42:07

Amid the chaos, a Chinook helicopter had been sent by mistake.

0:42:080:42:13

It was too big to land inside the fort.

0:42:130:42:17

I asked on the radio, and they said,

0:42:170:42:19

"Oh, they sent a Chinook by accident."

0:42:190:42:21

I sent them a new 9-liner.

0:42:210:42:23

I sent them everything, and I'm getting different excuses why.

0:42:230:42:28

Outside Haji Alem the rest of the platoon

0:42:420:42:45

were still fighting for their lives.

0:42:450:42:48

Joe Korosaya, who'd carried Mark Evison most of the way,

0:42:480:42:51

was at the end of his strength.

0:42:510:42:54

I ran down the canal.

0:42:540:42:57

I went straight down.

0:42:570:42:59

I fell inside the water, just didn't want to move any more.

0:42:590:43:06

I just wanted to stay in that canal,

0:43:070:43:10

I think I would fall asleep in that canal.

0:43:100:43:14

It's quite hard to keep the boys going,

0:43:140:43:17

and sometimes you just want to stop.

0:43:170:43:20

"Fucking hell, can't be arsed now, enough's enough."

0:43:200:43:25

I froze, pretty much nearly, at one point.

0:43:250:43:28

I was so...

0:43:280:43:30

..traumatised, and so upset by it all.

0:43:330:43:37

Peek hit him on the head, "Get a fucking grip!"

0:43:370:43:40

Yeah. A bit of encouragement!

0:43:400:43:43

It gave me the motivation to get over that ditch

0:43:430:43:47

and up the other side.

0:43:470:43:49

If you took them in there,

0:43:490:43:50

you've got to be able to get them out of there as well.

0:43:500:43:53

Under heavy fire, Gizzie clambered out of the canal.

0:43:530:43:56

I was just about to get my head over.

0:43:560:43:58

And then...boof! Just got fucking shot then.

0:43:580:44:00

I shouted, "Man down! Man down!" as I was in the water

0:44:000:44:04

and it all got echoed.

0:44:040:44:06

The pain was just too much.

0:44:060:44:08

I never had pain like that before in my life.

0:44:080:44:11

I thought, "That's it. I'm fucking gone, I'm dead."

0:44:110:44:15

21 years of age, fucking dying.

0:44:150:44:19

Then I seen Langley's head coming over the fucking canal.

0:44:190:44:22

I thought, "Here we go!"

0:44:220:44:25

"Hey, Giz, who's been fucking hit?" And he went, "Me!"

0:44:250:44:28

"What the fuck d'you mean, you?"

0:44:280:44:30

He goes, "I've been shot in the foot, I'll be all right.

0:44:300:44:33

"Just crack on, leave me." I'm like, "Shut up, you stupid cunt."

0:44:330:44:36

"I owe you 50, I'm not leaving you here!

0:44:360:44:39

"Come on, a real man always pays his debts."

0:44:390:44:42

And as we got into the straight 50, 60 metres that runs into Haji Alem

0:44:420:44:47

he just screamed as hard as he could, "You fucking Taliban cunts!"

0:44:470:44:52

People was on the radio all the time saying, "Where's the helicopter?!

0:45:070:45:11

And then, "Yeah, it's en route. Oh, no, it's not en route."

0:45:110:45:13

I felt like the entire platoon were asking where was it

0:45:130:45:16

and why haven't I sorted it out yet?

0:45:160:45:18

And they're still asking me, "Spoons, where's the MERT?"

0:45:180:45:21

Like somehow I can make it physically get here quicker.

0:45:210:45:24

There was still no sign of the MERT - the medical helicopter.

0:45:290:45:34

The flight time from Camp Bastion was around 15 minutes.

0:45:340:45:37

It had been nearly an hour since Evison was shot.

0:45:370:45:41

I couldn't understand it, why it wasn't there.

0:45:470:45:51

There was a lot of anger inside the checkpoint

0:45:510:45:54

because the helicopter took so long.

0:45:540:45:56

I just felt like shit,

0:45:560:45:57

so I'm asking again, "What's happening?!"

0:45:570:46:00

Gadsby picked up his camera and switched it off.

0:46:170:46:20

It would be another nine minutes before the helicopter arrived.

0:46:200:46:24

From that point on he just got worse and worse and worse.

0:46:260:46:28

To where they had to give him mouth to mouth and stuff

0:46:280:46:32

to keep him alive.

0:46:320:46:34

We'd slap him across the face,

0:46:340:46:35

"Wake up, stop being daft, stop being a fanny", basically.

0:46:350:46:40

We lost him twice in the PB, I think.

0:46:400:46:43

That's when you know it's pretty bad,

0:46:430:46:47

and the chance of making it...

0:46:470:46:50

through that is obviously going to be quite tricky.

0:46:500:46:53

As the helicopter arrived

0:46:550:46:57

Mark Evison lost consciousness for the last time.

0:46:570:47:00

I put Gizzie on, fucking Gizzie give me the old thumbs-up,

0:47:010:47:04

and I just looked left,

0:47:040:47:06

and I could just see Mark Evison's hand hanging off the stretcher

0:47:060:47:09

and just blood dripping from it as they put him on.

0:47:090:47:13

"Life is fragile

0:47:170:47:19

"and out here it feels like it can be removed in an instant.

0:47:190:47:22

"It almost makes life even more valuable

0:47:220:47:25

"and shows the fragility that many in the West

0:47:250:47:27

"I believe do not understand."

0:47:270:47:31

At that time no soldier flown back to the UK had ever died.

0:47:310:47:35

So we were like, "He's fucking safe, we've done a good job.

0:47:350:47:39

"We done exactly what we had to fucking do. Happy fucking days."

0:47:390:47:43

We were all fucking head-shocked.

0:47:510:47:52

We were all fucking sat round thinking, "How the fuck am I alive?

0:47:520:47:55

"How the fuck am I alive?"

0:47:550:47:58

We fucking worked for each other,

0:47:590:48:01

every man carried on with the battle and kept on fighting until the end

0:48:010:48:05

which is what it fucking means to be a soldier.

0:48:050:48:07

By the time Mark Evison got to surgery at Camp Bastion

0:48:100:48:13

there was no more blood left in his heart.

0:48:130:48:15

The surgeon would later testify

0:48:170:48:19

that Mark's injury had not been survivable.

0:48:190:48:22

He was flown back to England where he would die

0:48:220:48:26

with his family by his side.

0:48:260:48:29

"May 7th. Spoke to Mum this morning.

0:48:340:48:37

"I hope I have not scared her too much.

0:48:370:48:39

"Don't think I should have mentioned the ambush a few days ago."

0:48:390:48:43

Gizzie was treated at the same hospital as Evison.

0:48:470:48:51

He met Mark's mother.

0:48:510:48:52

Hardest thing I've ever done.

0:48:540:48:57

Like, I know her son is...

0:48:570:49:00

You know, obviously he's about to die.

0:49:000:49:03

She was asking, was he OK?

0:49:030:49:05

Stuff like that. "Was he good to youse?"

0:49:050:49:08

He was a brilliant bloke,

0:49:080:49:10

I couldn't praise him no more, cos he actually was.

0:49:100:49:13

I don't know how I didn't cry,

0:49:130:49:17

I just tried to keep myself strong for her.

0:49:170:49:21

Mark Evison died on May 12th 2009, three days after he was wounded.

0:49:230:49:29

"It is hard as the two worlds are so far apart.

0:49:290:49:32

"I hope this journal will help to put things in perspective

0:49:320:49:36

"for those back home who want to read it."

0:49:360:49:40

At Haji Alem, Seven Platoon

0:49:400:49:42

had not been given the news of their commander's death.

0:49:420:49:45

I phoned my missus and she said, "Are you all right?" I said, "Yeah."

0:49:450:49:49

She said, "Oh, it's just come on the news,

0:49:490:49:52

"Mark Evison's dead."

0:49:520:49:56

I had my cry, and then you've just got to dry your tears

0:49:560:50:01

and look at your boys and tell them, like.

0:50:010:50:06

The fucking boys were devastated,

0:50:060:50:09

and in the middle of the night we built a pukka cross.

0:50:090:50:12

And as we were coming to the end of building the cross

0:50:120:50:15

a load of green tracer come up.

0:50:150:50:18

They fucking chose the wrong night

0:50:180:50:19

to fucking come and start shooting at our compound

0:50:190:50:22

with automatic fire.

0:50:220:50:24

You want to kill them. No matter what.

0:50:260:50:29

In some ways you want to blow them up,

0:50:290:50:32

in some ways you want to shoot them and then retrieve the body.

0:50:320:50:36

Just a lot of mixed feelings.

0:50:360:50:41

Woo-hoo! Yeah!

0:50:440:50:48

That night, a lot of ammunition got fired.

0:50:480:50:50

It were brilliant. I needed that.

0:50:500:50:55

"I seem to be the only one here

0:50:570:50:58

"who believes that war might not be the answer

0:50:580:51:01

"to this particular problem.

0:51:010:51:02

"We must work on relationships with the Afghans

0:51:020:51:05

"if we are to build a future for them.

0:51:050:51:07

"Maybe my perspective will change in the next few days and weeks."

0:51:070:51:11

A hard summer's fighting lay ahead for Seven Platoon.

0:51:110:51:14

But some of them would find

0:51:140:51:16

the homecoming which followed harder still.

0:51:160:51:19

I come home, and I'm walking through town

0:51:230:51:26

and it was on a Sunday, and it was fucking dead.

0:51:260:51:28

And I thought, "I can't fucking do this.

0:51:280:51:32

"I want to go fucking back to Afghan. I can't fucking do this."

0:51:320:51:36

I couldn't really cope so I started drinking a lot

0:51:380:51:41

and I was looking for a fight, almost.

0:51:410:51:45

I've killed people.

0:51:480:51:50

You wouldn't really think that to look at me.

0:51:500:51:52

And I've seen my mates get hurt.

0:51:520:51:54

And I've seen my mates die for this country.

0:51:540:51:58

And sometimes I do ask myself, "Is it all worth it?"

0:51:580:52:03

I think a lot of people in fucking Seven Platoon,

0:52:040:52:07

that were in that Seven Platoon,

0:52:080:52:10

heads are fragged, in a big fucking way.

0:52:100:52:15

Some nights I'm lucky to get an hour's sleep.

0:52:170:52:21

Any bang, I jump.

0:52:210:52:23

Your body just goes hot.

0:52:230:52:27

I used to start shaking, your stomach is turning.

0:52:270:52:33

You feel angry.

0:52:330:52:35

You have sort of flashbacks, you have nightmares.

0:52:350:52:38

But it's not just nightmares of that place, it's like day to day.

0:52:380:52:43

I'd fall asleep, I'm in the supermarket,

0:52:430:52:48

but I'm fighting the Taliban in the supermarket.

0:52:480:52:52

So, it's sort of, I'm in a 360 ambush in a supermarket. Stuff like that.

0:52:520:52:56

It's just weird dreams like that.

0:52:560:52:58

I was drinking, a lot.

0:53:010:53:03

Well, every day.

0:53:030:53:05

And I started fighting.

0:53:050:53:07

Lance Sergeant Peek is currently being treated

0:53:070:53:10

for post-traumatic stress.

0:53:110:53:14

He's being medically discharged from the army.

0:53:140:53:17

You can see an injury.

0:53:170:53:19

This, you can't.

0:53:190:53:20

It dragged me right down to the bottom

0:53:200:53:23

and I'm slowly making my way back up.

0:53:230:53:26

I didn't have a father I could be proud of

0:53:270:53:31

so my daughter's going to have one that she can be proud of.

0:53:310:53:35

I won't tell her bad stuff, you know,

0:53:350:53:37

I'll tell her the happy stuff, like Squaddies Got Talent!

0:53:370:53:40

Spooner has left the army.

0:53:400:53:43

I miss the army.

0:53:440:53:46

You feel part of a team, of something bigger.

0:53:460:53:49

It sort of gave my life meaning.

0:53:490:53:51

If you're going to be a soldier you've got to accept

0:53:510:53:54

the consequences of what may happen to you.

0:53:540:53:56

You can't pick the war you're fighting.

0:53:560:54:00

You choose to join the army and you fight the war you're sent to fight.

0:54:000:54:03

I think about it a lot, about what happened that day,

0:54:030:54:08

but not to the extent where it depresses me.

0:54:080:54:11

I don't want to be one of those people where I'll live my life

0:54:140:54:18

based on one event that happened to me.

0:54:180:54:21

Cos it's only going to go bad from there.

0:54:210:54:24

Medic! Medic! Medic!

0:54:240:54:27

In your life there's, like, milestones.

0:54:270:54:30

For me, there's always the before that day and the after that day.

0:54:300:54:34

The Welsh Guards are going back to Afghanistan.

0:54:400:54:46

Luke Langley is going with them.

0:54:460:54:49

I don't feel that, personally, for me, that I fucking finished the job.

0:54:490:54:53

At the moment I've just found it easier to fucking try and forget

0:54:550:54:59

about everything that's fucking happened and try to block it out

0:54:590:55:02

and put it to the back of my mind.

0:55:020:55:05

Not to deny that it happened,

0:55:090:55:13

but to just carry on with my fucking life, and think,

0:55:130:55:16

"That's behind me, it stays there for now."

0:55:160:55:19

Until one day when I feel strong enough

0:55:190:55:21

I can look back on it and really think about

0:55:210:55:24

what I fucking went through as a young fucking lad.

0:55:240:55:30

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:56:110:56:15

It's May 2009 and a Welsh Guards platoon deep in Taliban country falls into a deadly ambush, just yards from the isolated mud fort which is their patrol base. Seven Platoon is led by the regiment's brightest young officer, Lt Mark Evison, who keeps a candid war diary revealing dangerous shortages of manpower and equipment. They are just two weeks into their tour of duty, and already a vital piece of equipment - an essential radio cable - has failed. As the Taliban tighten their noose around Seven Platoon, putting IEDs on the roads and attacking their small fort, even the most vital spares cannot get to them quickly. This film tells the gripping story of how the lack of one small cable has lethal consequences and leads to a platoon of the Welsh Guards' toughest soldiers nearly being massacred.