Other Post Friendly fire

John A Silkstone

Mi General
MI.Net Member
Jul 11, 2004
Three British soldiers died after an American pilot mistook the muzzle flashes from their weapons for an ambush by Taleban fighters, an inquest was told yesterday.

Privates Aaron McClure, 19, Robert Foster, 19, and John Thrumble, 21, died instantly when a 500lb bomb dropped by an F15 hit their position in Afghanistan in August 2007. The soldiers were part of a 100-strong patrol mounted by the Royal Anglian Regiment, which was forced to call for air support after coming under heavy fire in the abandoned village of Mazdurak.

The hearing, which had been delayed to await the outcome of a series of inquiries into the “friendly fire” incident, has been told that a mix-up over grid co-ordinates relayed by the patrol’s forward air controller led to the bomb being dropped in the wrong place.

Lorraine McClure, the mother of Private McClure, had appealed for the inquest to be adjourned because she was stranded in the Canary Islands by the disruption to air travel because of the volcanic ash cloud. David Masters, the Wiltshire Coroner, said that he sympathised but had to take into account the length of time the families of the other victims had already waited. He said that the British Consulate in Madrid was trying to arrange her return as a “priority passenger”.

Major Tony Borgnis, who commanded the patrol, described how the troops advanced along a wadi, a dry river valley codenamed the M4, before making a dash across open ground and taking up positions in a deserted village.

The purpose of the mission from their base at COP (combat outpost) Zeebrugge in Helmand was to try to locate and kill a Taleban sniper and to ascertain how close the enemy was to a strategically important dam.

As soon as the patrol entered Mazdurak it came under attack from at least four different directions. The fire support group (FSG), which was supposed to be orchestrating covering fire from an overlooking ridge, was hit by a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and radioed for assistance.

Major Borgnis set up his company headquarters on a rooftop and asked his forward air controller, Sergeant Mark Perren, to call in US fighters to bomb the Taleban positions. Meanwhile, the FSG returned fire with 81mm mortars and two 0.5 inch heavy machineguns.

The major said: “It was the heaviest fire of the deployment so far. Seven rocket- propelled grenades were fired in the space of five minutes. The situation was complex and confusing and there was a lot of pressure on everyone, but it is what we were trained to do.”

He was told by Sergeant Perren that the pilot had seen muzzle flashes north of their position on the other side of a compound identified as Compound 12. Initially they had thought the fire was coming from inside that compound.

Major Borgnis said that the Taleban knew they would call in air cover and had learnt to fire between buildings to make it harder to identify their exact positions. However, the muzzle flashes subsequently turned out to be from the patrol’s own weapons and not the compound that Sergeant Perren ringed on his map to show the positions reported by the pilot.

When Sergeant Perren told him that the bomb had been dropped, Major Borgnis used the Bowman radio net to tell his men to take “hard cover”.

He said: “Then a 500lb bomb flashed across my field of vision and there was an explosion. I knew immediately it had hit our positions.”

With two dead and two seriously injured Major Borgnis ordered an immediate evacuation. In the confusion no one noticed that Private Foster, known as Fossie, was missing until the survivors returned to base. Later that night Major Borgnis led another patrol to search for him. His body was found buried beneath rubble, all that was left of the building he had been firing from when the bomb struck.

Major Borgnis told the families attending the hearing: “To lose three such massive characters was devastating.”

The inquest had already heard that neither the F15 aircrew nor Sergeant Perren will face disciplinary action.

Sergeant Perren’s evidence will be heard towards the end of the inquest, which is expected to last six days, in the hope that Mrs McClure will have returned by then.
Horrible event. Rest In Peace, my condolences to the Family and friends.
As for the F-15 pilot, trying to identify friendlies from several hundred feet at 600 mph is no easy task. I agree it's a horrible event, but the responsibility ultimately falls upon the forward air controller, as he is the one calling the airstrike in.
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I suppose the responsibility always rests with somebody. But a tragedy never the less.
R.I.P brothers you will never be forgotten
I suppose the responsibility always rests with somebody. But a tragedy never the less.
R.I.P brothers you will never be forgotten

Well said. War is horrible and all it brings with it.

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