British TV to air footage of Afghanistan friendly-fire incident that killed three
January 27, 2008
RAF MILDENHALL, England — A popular British television show is set to air video footage captured by a soldier of the friendly-fire blast involving a U.S. fighter jet that killed three English soldiers last summer.
The television show, “Ross Kemp in Afghanistan,” airs the next four Mondays at 9 p.m. on Sky One across the United Kingdom. The friendly-fire footage will run Feb. 11.
“The film was captured by one of the soldiers and was passed on to Sky, and it will be aired on television,” said British Ministry of Defence spokesman Charlie Morton. “It is being done with the full consent of the MoD and the families.”
The uncle of Pvt. Aaron McClure, one the soldiers killed, said the family wanted Britain to witness the troops’ actions.
“It was never going to be easy to sit and watch your nephew get killed. We felt the effect of that, the shock waves, coming through the telly,” Allan McClure said.
“People need to realize the real effects of war and what our boys are going through over there.”
The incident occurred on Aug. 23, 2007, when an F-15 Eagle from RAF Lakenheath inadvertently dropped a 500-pound bomb on a column of British troops from the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment.
Pvts. Robert Foster, John Thrumble and McClure died in the accident, one of the deadliest friendly-fire incidents to date in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The regiment is based in Bury St. Edmunds, a town of 50,000 people roughly 20 miles from RAF Lakenheath and home to scores of American servicemembers.
The troops were under heavy enemy fire in the volatile Helmand province in southern Afghanistan when the F-15E from the 492nd Fighter Squadron was called in to provide close-air support.
British military officials sought to assuage public frustration following the incident by pointing out that American close-air support proved crucial in saving scores of British lives during pitched battles with Taliban fighters throughout the conflict.
Lt. Col. Troy Stone, then-commander of the 492nd, told Stars and Stripes last year that the squadron employed approximately 1,000 ordnances during its four-month tour at Bagram Airfield. Stone now serves as deputy commander of the 48th Operations Group, which is based at Lakenheath and includes the 492nd.
McClure said the family is not in search of culpability.
“We understand as a family that the Americans have saved a lot of lives, a lot of British lives. We know that,” he said.
“We are not looking to blame anyone. We only want to find out the truth. We’ve got to digest the truth and get on with our lives, but never forgetting Aaron and those lads.”
The MoD confirmed in November that the U.S. portion of the investigation into the incident was complete. Morton said the British part is still ongoing.
He said the tape set to run on the show may be used in the investigation.
“If the investigation team deems it relevant, they will request it,” he said.
A British coroner is slated to conduct an inquest on the incident later this year. Like the ongoing inquest into the 1997 death of Princess Diana, no charges can be filed as a result of an inquest, which is held to determine how a death occurred.
The first show in the gritty five-part series ran Monday and was seen by nearly 1 million viewers. It drew widespread praise from British media critics for its portrayal of the troops’ courage and sacrifice.
A promo for the show shows Kemp embedded with the battalion in fierce, close-range gunfights.
The 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath declined to comment on the show. Efforts to get comment from the Royal Anglian Regiment were unsuccessful.
“Ross Kemp in Afghanistan” is a spinoff on his previous show, “Ross Kemp on Gangs,” in which the actor famous for his role as a former Royal Marine on the long-running British soap opera “EastEnders” hangs out in some of the world’s toughest neighborhoods.