I have been to Afghanistan six times. It is an endlessly fascinating and beautiful country. In this post I want to share a taste of how it feels to be shot at while on patrol with the British military.
“RPG” shouted one of the Marines next to me. I dived for cover and pressed record on my TV Camera. There was a loud boom and the earth shook as the small missile exploded close behind. The Royal Marines immediately returned fire. It was just after dawn on Christmas day, 2007. I’d always wandered how it felt to be shot at, to hear the crack of bullets breaking the sound barrier above my head and to feel the adrenaline flood through my body. Now it was happening it felt strangely surreal, like I was watching a film.
I was embedded with Delta Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines and when the Taliban struck we were advancing in single file across a broad muddy field. Next to me was a young Officer who was also experiencing his first taste of battle. As the rounds cracked above us he calmly gave his men instructions and briefed me on what was happening.”Merry Christmas” He said with a smile as another bullet whizzed close-by. Jonesy, a black guy from Wales, was on the other side of me. He raised his head over the top of the drainage ditch we’d dived into and let rip with his Minimi machine-gun, the vicious sound echoing loudly.
“Incoming” screamed a Marine as another RPG round exploded nearby. For a moment I’d forgotten why I was there, too busy tasting the Afghan dirt to film. I wasn’t scared, just confused and showing my inexperience. Eventually one of the Bootnecks asked wether I planned to film any of the action, I laughed and began looking for shots. The battle soon steadied and the frantic back and forth of small arms fire slowly faded. After some time it appeared the Taliban had withdrawn, no more fire came our way and slowly we began to move back across the open ground and into the cover of an empty compound nearby.
That night one of the Marines approached me at the Forward operating base and told me that he thought I’d been brave to go on patrol without a weapon. I shook my head, slightly embarrassed. It had been a brief introduction to war, I felt like a tourist and knew that in a few days I would be home, while he and his mates would be back out on the front lines putting themselves into harms way once again – now that is bravery.
Below is a tribute film that I put together with footage that I shot during my embed with 40 Commando
Also if you are interested in Afghanistan and want to learn more about one of the worlds most fascinating countries then I highly recommend the following list of books (If you click on the links below it will take you to the relevant amazon page and if you buy it I’ll earn about five percent of the sale to help with the upkeep of this site – at no extra cost to you)