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Our War: Dealing with death on the frontline in Afghanistan

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Bjorn Rose Bjorn Rose | 09:31 UK time, Monday, 6 June 2011

In April 2007 I was the officer commanding 3 (Corunna) Platoon in Helmand, Afghanistan.

Due to the events surrounding the death of one of my men, Private Chris Gray, on Friday, 13 April, I was approached by BBC Three to contribute to the programme, Our War.

My platoon sergeant Si Panter had already recorded all the frontline footage used in Our War on his helmet camera.

As a keen mountain biker he had always liked recording his outings on camera and transferred this passion to our six month tour of Afghan, as we called it for short.

Bjorn Rose in Afghanistan

To the observer it would appear that there were a lot of inexperienced soldiers in my platoon that day.

This is true, but even for some of the seasoned soldiers like Billy Moore, who was shot in the arm in the 'contact' (engagement with the enemy) featured in the programme, this action was like nothing they had experienced before.

Up to 60 per cent of the men in a platoon will have changed by the next operational tour so there is always likely to be a high proportion of inexperienced soldiers in the platoon.

I know the Gray family have seen the programme and are proud of the portrayal of their son. He was a great soldier - something which is often said about the dead, but he truly was.

He showed such potential at an early stage in his career that I was keen for him to go on a promotion course on getting back from Afghan.

In the film, Private Tony Cowley mentions that there were nine empty seats on the flight home. This was true as we had lost nine men from the battalion (which contains nine infantry platoons) during our tour.

Some would say we were fortunate in my platoon to only have one killed and one wounded.

After the action in the programme, we went without a further casualty for the whole remaining six months in Helmand. Other platoons weren't so lucky.

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After Chris was killed, while still on tour, I decided to write to Chris' mum, Helen. While my training had not covered the writing of 'death letters', I felt it my duty to do so.

The letter I wrote to her was an outpouring of every factual detail I could lay my hands on.

I wanted Chris' family to know everything as I thought it highly likely I was going to 'get it' myself in the next contact.

In hindsight, and as you'll see Helen say in the programme, the detail in the letter was too much for her.

Although my company commander checked the letter and approved it to be sent, it conflicted with the version of events given to Helen on first learning of Chris' death by those in England.

Although an innocent mistake, this had long-reaching and devastating results, which I felt responsible for.

In the programme, I struggled to read the end of the letter to camera because I hadn't read it since the day four years ago I put it in the mailbag to go on the helicopter.

Reading it unlocked a lot of emotions I thought I had got over.

The phrase "a lot of young boys turned to men" was the one that really got me. It was the thought of the lost innocence, I think.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Chris' family on a couple of occasions. I was concerned about how I would be received by Helen after the rejection of my letter.

When I met her for the first time, she simply walked straight up to me and gave me a hug.

That said more than any words ever could. In that moment a lot of wounds were healed for me.

The late Private Chris Gray in Afghanistan

I can remember discussing with one of my fellow officers whether Chris' death was 'worth it'. The gains made on that operation appeared slight to us for the loss of his life.

The truth is I can't go there emotionally - it's too painful to think that it wasn't worth it.

After all, at the time I did genuinely feel the gains we made whilst in Helmand were worth our sacrifices. I think you have to in order to cope.

The Army is a lifestyle choice. If you are not prepared to submit to the demands of that lifestyle then you should leave.

After serving my minimum four-year commission I elected not to extend and left to take up a new career in teaching.

I was content that I had gained some invaluable experience leading men on operations and now have some interesting memories to bore my pupils with.

People ask me if I miss the Army. The simple answer is yes, particularly when I meet up with guys from the battalion who are still serving. I try to stay in touch with them as much as possible.

But I am also grateful for the control I now have over my life by not being in the Army.

I often find myself looking back on the action in Afghan with rose-tinted spectacles, forgetting the uncertainty and confusion, just remembering the action and adrenalin rushes. I suppose that is just human nature.

If I were able to say something to Chris now it would probably be, "Watch out, your mate and fellow soldier Matt Duffy is after your sister!"

Editor's note: Chris Gray's good friend Matt Duffy, who appears in Our War, is now engaged to Chris' sister Katie.

Bjorn Rose was an officer in the British Army during the making of Our War. He is now a history teacher.

Our War starts on BBC Three at 9pm on Tuesday, 7 June. For further programme times, please see the upcoming episodes page.

You can watch exclusive short films from those affected by the war in Afghanistan on the Our War programme page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    It goes without saying that the Britsh forces have the best, most courageous and most professional men and women in the world carrying out missions in Afghanistan without fear or favour.
    There's another debate being had on Mark Eastons blog about extremism and how to fight it. The Afghan campaign is one way violent extremism is being fought but its not the only way. Winning hearts and minds play an equally big part and thats another role played out by our forces in the combat zone.
    Political and diplomatic measures also need to be fully utilised. Its pointless having our brave soldiers fighting if the political structure is corrupt which then feeds the extremist wing more and more.
    The Taliban know they can't beat our forces head to head so they now use terrorist tactics in use of the IED, suicide bombers and the like.
    At some stage, as with the IRA, we're going to have to talk to the less millitant/violent Taliban to get a final solution. The governance of the country has to be strengthed and systems in place to stop corruption, allow aid to get to the people so people have no reason to turn to violence to get what they see as a basic right to food, education etc. You can't 'impose' democracy, you can sow the seeds and show what can be achieved when people are free from tyranny and dictatorship.

  • Comment number 2.

    I would just like to say what a deeply moving and brave production this was, and I am sure the remaining programmes will be the same. I feel totally humbled by the actions of others risking their lives for their country. Irrespective of one's political or personal viewpoints on the war against terrorism, or the war in Afghanistan in particular, this was a brilliant piece of television which may prove to be historical in how future wars are chronicled. It is only by seeing the reality of war that we can fully appreciate our own freedoms which are often taken for granted. This also serves as a fitting tribute to Chris Gray and a loving memory for Chris's family. Well done to all at 3 (Corunna) Platoon.

  • Comment number 3.

    just watched "our war" gob smacked, wot a superb programme boys becoming men overnight real heros. proper reality t.v

  • Comment number 4.

    Young British soldiers fighting for the freedom of Afghanistan,yet we have Afghan
    asylum seekers in this country who should be fighting along with our boy's for there freedom.I just don't get it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Very sensitive docmentary. Was very moved.

  • Comment number 6.

    what a moving programme - I was one of the Brigade Ops Officers on Herrick 6 and was in the Brigade Ops room while this was taking place. I will never forget dealing with the casualty evacuation of Chris Gray as sadly he was the first soldier we lost. We did not get the full picture of what had happened and how close the fighting had been until the following day, I only wish we could have done more to help.

  • Comment number 7.

    One of the best documentaries I have seen on any war. Typically war documentaries are produced by outsiders....... this made me feel like an insider, experiencing the anxiety, pain, fear, joy and sadness. This was REAL. My compliments to the people who did the filming and BBC 3 for producing it.

  • Comment number 8.

    I thought this was an incredible programme - deeply moving - and I just want to say how humbling the whole thing was and how much I want to give my sympathy to Chris Gray's family, and to his friends. Thankyou for helping make such an important and moving programme.

  • Comment number 9.

    Watching the programme tonight was such a difficult & emotional thing. I am really not into war, but understand it is a necessary evil sometimes. The young people, who serve & horrifically give their lives to sort out things our elected, well paid & sometimes cheating politicians fail to do. If they don't sort it out, it seems we send our youth to die without much protection. Not that it removes from the incredible bravery I don't think I could ever have shown. The film showed great camaraderie, but mostly the danger, fear & once again bravery these guys go through for us. They are all a credit to us, but it brought me a lot of pain to think my easy life is so much gained through the suffering of other people and families. They are me more than I will ever be, but I hate to seem patronising, most of you were no more than boys when you went out there & I am sorry the world my generation created made you do that. I hope they all live a great life we should have provided. The film was so intimate, it put all Hollywood blockbusters into a shameful place where the horrors of war were put into true perspective instead of glamorised action movies where acting stars get more glory than the true heroes who provided us with such a great insight to what is happening in our world today. I hope we don't have to do this much longer & especially not to a great team like appeared tonight. Although I don't agree with the politicians who put you there, Thank you for doing us proud.

  • Comment number 10.

    I was in theatre as part of the Special Investigations Branch team responsible for investigating Chris's death (and the deaths of another 29 of our finest over the next six months).

    I arrived at Bastion just as we became aware that we had our first fatality. I recall feeling numb as our task began to sink in. In those initial moments I went with a colleague to the Royal Anglian Ops room to try and gather some information. They were in shock, struggling to grasp the enormity of what had just happened.

    Initially we were not welcomed (not a surprise really), but unfortunately over the coming months, our organisations got to know each other very well. They lost others, but the first one will always be the hardest. They along with the Mercians and the Grenadier Guards suffered the brunt of the casualties, yet inspite of this, they displayed the utmost in professionalism and as an RAF Police Investigator, I can say that I am proud that I met some real heroes over those six months.

  • Comment number 11.


  • Comment number 12.

    Thank you so much for such an insightful and dramatic look into the world of a soilder on the front line. I have never felt so emotionaly involved in a documentary

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi, I rarely post comments on TV programmes, but feel compelled to do so after watching " Our War ". As a former military man with 26 years service, this programme comes across extremely well and is as close to the front line experience you will ever get without actually being there ! The programme was well put together and showed many sides to soldiering that many members of the puiblic do not see very often; sensitivity, emotional, humour (so important to get you through the worst times !) and professionalism. I am looking forward to the series - shame I cannot watch it again on iplayer ( I am overseas !). Well done to everyone who played their part in making this hugely interesting and highly watchable programme. Regards !

  • Comment number 14.

    @ David Crook, I am an Afghan, I hear about dozens of Afghan soldiers dying everyday, and of-course it saddens me, but when I hear about the death of a British soldier it moves me to tears, you are right that its our war, and we should be fighting it, and we are more than grateful for your sacrifices. However to say that young Afghans should go from the UK to fight the war is just naive, this program is a 3 part series, its the next episode you will see them fighting along side the ANA, most of footgae you saw in the first episode, was from 2008, when there was very few trained ANA units, at the moment every month nearly 3000 soldiers join the ranks of the ANA and fight along side foreign forces, in july the will start taking the security of 7 provinces. I know its not about the war.

  • Comment number 15.

    @David Crook, most of the footage that you saw last night was filmed in April 2007, as you are well aware, Afghanistan did not have an Army until 2002-3, when they started building a National Army (ANA) this takes time, and more and more of them were deployed with foreign forces across Afghanistan.

    At the moment the ANA has one of the highest monthly graduation numbers in the world around 3000 soldiers, who are deployed around the country, and the time of filming this footage, the overall number of soldiers that the ANA was training every month was very low. In July they will take control of 7 provinces from foreign forces.
    This documentary is a 3 part series, its naive of you to say that young Afghans should go and fight along side British soldiers, I understand its our war, and we should be fighting for our freedom, but we are, as i said this is a 3 part series, watch the two remaining episodes and will see the ANA fighting along side British soldiers.
    On a last note this is not really about our freedoms, but your own governments agendas, and its desire to be America's best friend, remember we ( Afghans) did not ask you to come to Afghanistan and fight for us, and you are free to leave whenever you wish, its not an Afghan war, its a global war, for the good of Afghans, Britons, and everyone else.

  • Comment number 16.

    I watched with interest last night and was in awe of the reaction to the whole contact period surrounding the sad loss of Pte Gray. In my view this highlights the value of training, in so far as the death toll could have been far higher if it weren't for the professional way in which the men of 3 Pl reacted. OK, some of the training went out of the window, it's bound to in such an emotionally charged situation, but on the whole those guys acquitted themselves brilliantly in the finest traditions of the British Army.

    What this film portrayed was the bond that develops between soldiers when death is close at hand. As Lt Rose aptly summed up in his letter "boys turned into men".

    Well done to the BBC for putting together this programme and showing it in all its uncensored glory and well done to the men of the Royal Anglian Regiment for doing what you do.

  • Comment number 17.

    Very interesting and great to see a real front line perspective, but why isn't this programme being shown on BBC1 at 8 or 9pm, rather than BBC3 which has a much smaller viewing audience?

    Tomorrow, Thursday 9th June 2011 will see another repatriation of UK soldiers killed in Afghan, and once again the people of Wootton Bassett and many others will come out to show their respect for a soldier killed in a war that is still going on today.

    Yes, the UK is still fighting this war and soldiers are dying and being seriously injured, yet it seems that the media and public at large are happy to almost forget about it. The reality of war is grim, and rather than obsessing about Britain's got Talent all the time, it'd be great if just for an hour, the UK public were shown on a high profile channel what the brave men and women of this country are going through.

    There are still 2 episodes left, so go on BBC, do the decent thing and show them on BBC1

  • Comment number 18.

    Was really stunned watching Our War. Fantastically shot and put together,but so moving too. Thank you BBC for putting this together.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am a friend of Helen Chris' mum, i witnessed what hell she and her family went through when Chris was killed. I am so proud off her, it must have been the hardest thing any mum has ever had to do, to let this footage be shown. Helen is brave, and one of the most genuine people you could ever wish to meet without her consent this documentary could not of been shown. ( why was it not shown on BBC1?) we as a nation should all know what a fantastic job and the sacrifices our armed forces are taking, being out there in Afghanistan. It moved me to see a group of men who didnt know each other in the begining and ended up as a family unit looking out for one another so proud.

  • Comment number 20.

    Never have I felt the need to comment on any other programme before. I was gripped the entire programme. This was an extremely emotional journey for these men and we have been allowed to share that journey. Thank you.

    Being an army wife, the realities of war are always on my mind and this programme certainly put life in perspective for me. I just wanted Bjorn Rose to know that his letter was everything that I would wish for in such tragic circumstances. His compassion and devotion was clear. I can only imagine what life is like for the Soldiers on the front line and I have the greatest respect for you all.

    Truly amazing people.

  • Comment number 21.

    Like a few of the people above I also do not comment on many tv doc's but felt I had to with this one. I am the mother of a soldier who spent his 20th birthday on his first tour of Afghan and to watch those 19 year old guys go from boys to men overnight was heartbreaking and inspiring you could feel just through watching it when they where coming under fire they where really frightened but they did what they had to do, and for that I feel extremly humbled. I also think that Chris Greys mum and dad must have been extremley brave to watch what was happening with their son, I know I could not watch my son go through something like that, as I would forever be thinking of those images, they are really brave people and deserve medals them selves. I also agree it should have been shown on BBC1 on a prime time spot.

  • Comment number 22.

    Stark reality of war at it's worst/best. The show had a huge impact on me and an even greater impact of my friends who met Bjorn, he was their guide on a school trip to Ecuador, they didn't know about his service until seeing this program. They all spoke highly of him, even before seeing this program.

  • Comment number 23.

    What can I say, it’s been emotional! I watched the programme for the first time in its current full version with my mum. She is on her own as my younger brother is currently preparing to deploy for his first tour of Helmand with the RAF as a Chinook pilot.

    She supported me throughout my time out there in Afghan so in many ways I owe it to her for firstly bringing me into this world, but also having to put up with the anxiety of having a son in Afghan. It is often said that it is worse for those left behind, and that is certainly true as I can attest to as a man who has stayed at home whilst my fiancée spent 6 months in Helmand. It’s the not knowing when they in-or-out of danger that is the worst. At least when you are out there you know when you are safe.

    I would like to draw on the well deserved and generous praise a lot of you have quite rightly made for the programme team, particularly Bruce Goodison the director who has been so instrumental in making a very impartial and clear portrayal in this particular episode.

    The boys who did the job and are still doing it as I write this in my cosy school library whilst on ‘homework club’ duty are the ones who rightly deserve the real recognition for their service. It is good to read comments from former service personnel in the form of G Thirde, Snowdrop65 and snowdrop083 (any relation?). It brings home the scale of the effort currently being waged when you see the far reaching impact that only one death has as seen in this episode.

    As I write, the toll in Afghan for British service personnel killed currently stands at 371. Each one of those deaths would have caused a similar, if not even more devastating impact. However, David Crook’s and expoperialed‘s exchange highlight that there is an Afghan face to this war that was not touched on by this programme.

    Whilst in Afghan I worked with the ANA and ANP on a number of operations. I did not fight by their side but I can say their suffering was far greater than ours in terms of the number of casualties taken. I feel saddened that the debate always seems to come back to the ‘why are they here sponging off us?’ argument. It makes me weary to think that Afghans who have been displaced by fighting directly linked to actions we have taken militarily in the present and historically, and who come to Britain to seek the freedom, education and economic wellbeing we as a society so readily espouse, find that they are the subject of an often unwelcome reception.

    I am saddened because we are supposedly trying to establish these values in Afghanistan and yet get upset when people come here to seek those very same values. We may not like it, but they are the values we live by and should be proud that people, regardless of their colour, race or religion, would want to come to our shores in the first place.

    In answer to Jules’ valid point and at the risk of sounding like a BBC publicist, the viewing figures this programme received were the best ever for BBC 3 at 1.3 million (previously held by Junior Doctors at 1 million). The series was funded by BBC 3 so will therefore be released by BBC 3, after all it was their baby! Whether or not the programme will screen again on BBC 1 remains to be seen, but in the light of your generous comments I think it would certainly be in the BBC’s interest.

    Finally, to touch on staylor1970’s very humbling comments, I can only say that I am no hero. I am a teacher. The real heroes are the wounded and maimed, the dead and the boys who turned into men…

  • Comment number 24.

    Extremely moving and brought a lump to my throat. I hope that those whom require help have been given it i.e. the good work performed by Combat Stress.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    This programme was incredibly moving and gave me a real insight into life in Afghanistan. I hope it gives many more an idea of the sacrifices made by and the bravery of our troops. I am a member of the year-long national appeal DecAid which is helping to encourage the young people of Britain to stand up and support our Troops in the 10th year since British military operations in Afghanistan began. It is programmes like these that remind me of why DecAid is doing what it's doing.

  • Comment number 28.

    I just watched the show it was amazing to see what it was really like think you doing a great job well done soldiers plus a facebook grope link https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_176909465701381&ap=1

  • Comment number 29.

    The most fantastic, shocking and impressive piece of film I've ever seen, it makes the great Restrepo (a masterpiece by the now dead Tim Hetherington) look almost staged. As a soldier who went to war a few wars ago I think the platoon was very typical of most that head to war, raw and untested, where they learn very fast from experience. They came through giving the impression of a hard, trained team. Private Gray's family deserve enormous regard for their bravery in letting all this be seen. I wish all the politicians who lightly commit troops to action would watch this first.....not to stop them doing it if required, but to make sure they understand the "butcher's bill". A last comment, and not to detract from what I have already said, but I wouldn't have written "the letter" as it was written, but respect Bjorn for having done it and his motives for doing so.

  • Comment number 30.

    @Rose People have a valid point when they raise the question ‘why are they here sponging off us?’ and as an Afghan I am not in a position to criticize the British governments policies, but I really believe that as long as people can just come here, and start claiming benefits, and continuing to do so, without there being a limit to the number of years, or tougher conditions, that they have to meet, not only people within the immigrant community will start taking advantage but British people too.

    The problem with the government is that it does not recognize limits, everything has a limit, why can't it have a policy where it says, you can come here, and claim benefits for lets say 2- 3 years, there after you cant, and only once you prove you can work and support yourself and your family, can you stay here.

    People will always find ways, ofcourse in an ideal world who would want to beg, when you can work, but every society has people who feel otherwise, and will continue to take advantage.

    Talking of limits, and tougher conditions which I really belive are neccessary, why are people from other communities who protest against Brtish soldiers in Afghanistan are alllowed to claim benifits, I love democracy, and it's what makes Britain great, but when they shout deragatory terms infront of a dead soldiers family, and burn poppies, that is when you have crossed a limit.

    Afghan's are peaceful and hospitable people, some people raise the point that people within the immigrant community do not learn English and integrate with the British culture, but when it comes to my community, its all about education, and learning and integrating.

    Who does not want to learn a different language specially the language of the country that you live in, but I have friends from other communities who do not let the female members of their family get an education, learn English, etc.

    I think when people hear about suicide bombings they think directly of Afghanistan, Afghanistan is and was the biggest victim of terrorism ( I don't know why they say Pakistan?) not one Afghan has been involved in an International attack, you will not find one Afghan in a protest aginst the British presence in Afghanistan, we want these soldiers there, and appreciate their suffering and sacrifices, but I hear people saying "why are we there, it's not like they appreciate what we are doing for them" or "you cant bring democracy to a 7th century country".

    Democracy is a concept, a formulla, in it's British form it will never work in Afghanistan, but Afghanistan can change the formulla, and already things are changing in Afghanistan, as long as its within the boundaries of our culture, then its aceptable to everyone.

    Things like women's abuse, and women being seen as mothers and housewives, takes education and campaigning, just like 40 years ago, a majority of the British population defined the role of women as mothers and housewives, its the same in Afghanistan, while the world could move forward, Afghanistan was at war.

    Finally what I am trying to say is that, we are not really the problem, its part of our culture to be hospitable, and when hospitality runs in your culture, you appreciate hospitality, and we are grateful for being here, but I as a new graduate, who was 10 years old when we came to the UK, who went to school, university, and I have just got a new job at top accounting firm, get more criticism,and everyone wants me to be sent back to Afghanistan, than someone who has so much hatred for the British people, that they protest infront the families of a dead soldier, that is not about a particular ethnicity, or religion, its about humanity, how can you do that, when you know people are grieving.

    People say if you feel so strongly about this why dont you go and protest against these people, I did for a while, but when you see how the government treats them, you think why am I doing this?

  • Comment number 31.

    Like many others above, I was moved - very moved. Too see what these young men and thousands like them go through every day out there. Much of what we don't see is in their heads and that is something we as a nation must make sure we honour them now and honour them in the years to come, when they may need our support long after we are no longer in Afghan. Well done those who took the footage, well done the Army for permitting the footage to be shown and well done BBC for making this film: "Lest we forget!"

  • Comment number 32.

    as a former serving soldier, a wife and a mother, i would hope that if my husband were to die in afghan, then i would like a letter such as you wrote, i think it took courage to do what you did, it may not be nice to read, and it may not be what one wants, when someones son has died, however, it was factual and came from the heart, and more importantly it came from someone who was there!

  • Comment number 33.

    At last something worthwhile and compelling to watch on TV. It is about time our boys get to tell their stories instead of burying them in locked archives never to see the light of day by the public. These documentaries are really well put together and a true reflection of the high calibre and bravery of these professional yet fun-loving lads. You can’t reality TV this up. It’s easy to go to war when the Army is faceless so it’s about time we made it personal and got to know who is serving and who never makes it back under our countries name. There is something admirable and envious when I see my husband (ex-military) and his friends meet up or even with other military guys they don’t know – there is an instant friendship and loyalty and need to keep their mates out of harm’s way. To Bjorn, what a fitting tribute to your friend and a brave an honest move to follow your conviction and the Gray family most sincerest condolences. I think these guys are great role models and those who are still out there I wish them home safe soon.

  • Comment number 34.

    I am so proud to see my son Roy [Personal details removed by Moderator] on telly tonight, I now understand what my son and the lads who were out on patrol that day were feeling with regards to their friend Jamie who died by an IED. My son and Rob tried to save him and it still affects my son to this day that Jamie died. The lads of the Grenadier Guards should be proud of themselves your did and are doing a good job for this country.........

  • Comment number 35.

    This whole series has been so moving and the letter that you wrote to Chris Gray's parents was truly heart-wrenching. I can not imagine the pain that all the families of soldiers who have lost loved ones feel but I think of them often, Mrs Gray was so brave to allow this to be shown and I am glad that your letter let her see the truth, it is the least they deserve

    It would be amazing if this programme could be broadcast on another channel but at the moment, it is so rightfully deserved that it bought the highest viewing figures into BBC 3, the armed forces of this country is made up of amazing people as to are the people who support them in the background and the public should know what life is really like long after the media has forgotten about it.

    The whole range of feelings that I have felt watching this series will remain with me forever and I hope that speaks for everyone else who has watched it.

    With all the best wishes in the World, a proud Royal Marines Partner

  • Comment number 36.

    Hello Jules (#17), julie (#19), chrsalg (#21), sophosarus (#35) - and anyone else interested in the programme being repeated…

    To let you know that Zai Bennett, the controller of BBC Three announced at a documentary festival in Sheffield that Our War will be repeated on BBC One later this year.

    See the end of this news story: https://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jun/09/scrapping-bbc3-off-the-agenda


    Assistant Content Producer, BBC TV blog

  • Comment number 37.

    Excellent series.......ALL MPs should be made to watch this series before they cut military pensions, War Disability Pensions and associated Disability Benefits and War Widow(er) Pensions which are now under the knife.....I have suffered from PTSD for 30 years now and coped with it because I knew that the Government had an unspoken agreement they would look after us disabled ex-forces....not anymore....this supposed 'Covenant' is a means for the Government to cut support and force us to go cap in hand to charities...It's a disgrace that these young guys will be left wanting in their our of need and that society is willing to accept this....I now dissuade any young person from joining up. In Disgust...ex RAF

  • Comment number 38.

    This was an excellent series and put the soldiers in a very good light. I have nothing but respect for these guys and the way they carry out their mission although I believe that the whole war is a tragic mistake.

    It's just so naive to believe that foreign forces can make the slightest LASTING bit of difference in Afghanistan, a country that is so corrupt, undeveloped and tribally divided. Western governments pour vast sums of money into fighting the Taliban when there is no evidence whatsoever that the Afghan state will EVER be able to operate in an effective, uncorrupted manner.

    Pure hubris and a tragedy on many levels.

  • Comment number 39.

    Just like to say that if half the officers in the armed forces are as decent and grounded as you - we won't go far wrong! You and all your platoon should be proud every single day you are on this earth that you served the British people to the best you ever could. I for one raise a glass to you all.

  • Comment number 40.

    Have only total respect and admiration for what our troops try to do in Afghan, But allow me to say , Is really worth it? We are told this is all done in the name of protecting the Uk and other western countries . Do you really believe that? Of course its not true . Foreign forces can NEVER sort these problems its only the country's own people who can, The Fact is terrorist groups will move on.
    The last two governments , diplomats and some senior military personnel know this is true but no off them are prepared to admit that British soldiers have died for a cause that cannot be won.

  • Comment number 41.

    After watching the documentary I decided to write this and is aimed directly to Lieutenant Bjorn Rose. At the end of the documentary you mention about your involvement with the CCF and given what you went through during the tour which resulted in the death of PTE Gray I hoped you might be able to help me have an understanding to something I have mentally toiled with.

    I am an ACF instructor and have been for some time now, I have had cadets who have gone on to join the army, some of which are on active service in Afghanistan as we speak, I also have 2 friends who have been and successfully come back from Afghan, well when I say successfully, they don't come back the same person they was before they left, which is understandable given what they have been through. But it is this what has cast a shadow of a doubt on my role as an instructor, I no longer see the kids that I am teaching as merely a group of kids, just sat in a classroom or out in the field doing Fieldcraft & having a bit of fun to break the normal routine, or the main one as you probably well know is because they are bored & want a bit of adventure, Some of these kids who I have taught are/ and have gone on to join the army and on to active service in Afghanistan. I know none of the cadet forces are a recruiting point for any of the armed forces, but it is quite hard especially seeing these young kids with bergans strapped to their backs, an A2 strapped to their fronts, not to think to myself what if one of these kids who I have taught, and gave a little taste of the army to, by what it's like to get cammed up, FTX excercises, running through a field with the BFA attached shooting at an imaginary enemy and them shooting back,pyrotechnics going off, what if just one of them then actually goes on to join the army and then doesn't come home ?

    I know that after the cadet force they go on to do their infantry training and it is there where they learn the skills needed to go on to become battle ready, but finally getting to the point, the cadet force is where the seed is planted at that tender young age and in many ways we nurture that interest and make it grow.

    I'm just not sure if the "worse case scenario" I've mentioned is valid or has been conveyed the way in which it was supposed to, but I just think there is more to it than taking the kids to the ranges to fire live rounds or giving them blanks and sending them out into the field to have a bit of fun, I'm just not sure that if something did happen to one of those kids who went on to join the army after the cadet force, I couldn't help but feel partially responsible.

    The documentary, and the in depth video detail of Chris Gray's death reinforced this thought enough to actually get in touch to hopefully someone who may understand where I am coming from, I have tried to speak to people within my company about this thought more than anything to try and get it straight in my head as it is just niggling away in the back of my mind, but I am merely met with responses such as why did you join then ?

    I have had a number of rewarding experiences within the cadet force such as seeing kids come in from all walks of life who lack certain social skills or haven't made friends very easily and so on, to see them grow in confidence, or achieve something they never thought would be possible, is fantastic to see and is very satisfying to know that you was in some way responsible for that. I too try and sway their thoughts away from joining the army and I myself have told my own son that he is not allowed when it has popped up in conversation (my son is 14 and was in cadets which is how the army conversation came about he subsequently left as he didn't see the point in being in cadets and learning a load of stuff he was never going to use & he didn't quite grasp the concept that it was an outside interest and something to do as a hobby) but there is always going to be that small percentage of kids within the detachment who go on to do exactly that and I hope to god that over my time in the ACF one of that percentage doesn't come back in a C17 with a flag.

    Apologies for the essay,



  • Comment number 42.

    @ Smurf. You raise a valid point about the role of the Cadets (ACF or CCF) and the responsibility of the Adult Instructor within these organisations.

    Having served in the Regular Army it is easy for me to grasp the realities of what combat can entail. The fear and the trauma it can cause were highlighted very well by the episode and series which is the subject of this blog. What I sometimes find difficult to grasp is the mindset of the young boys I teach within the CCF at school who only see the glory and positive side to these real life events.

    Despite the shocking nature of the combat and emotional fallout from the incident shown in Episode 1, I still have some boys (the school I teach at is an all boys school) coming up to me and asking about how they can join the Regular Army or TA. I sense a lot of naivety in their questions and consequently tend to take the ‘inform and educate’ rather than ‘encourage and persuade’ approach to dealing with their enthusiasm for two reasons:

    1) I am aware of the responsibility I have for their lives and would not want to see them join a profession ill informed about the realities of what this job can entail.
    2) I have trained recruits at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick as a Platoon Commander and found that the 17 year old lad who turned up having simply played ‘Call of Duty’ and watched some TV programmes was the least prepared for the trials and tribulations that army life entailed.

    These boys often left the Army after a couple of months, disillusioned about why they had joined. On asking one tearful 17 year old recruit on his way home what he thought the Army was going to be like he replied, sobbing, “I thought we would be running around and climbing trees.” Safe to say it is not about all the stuff you see on TV, there is much more to it than that!

    The point I am trying to make is that some children in the Cadets will join the Armed Forces, FACT. I see our role as Adult Instructors within Cadets as a means of providing a positive role model for life. The fact that we are in uniform and use military attitudes, values and beliefs is simply a vehicle for achieving our ultimate goal; moulding responsible, disciplined young people who are confident and willing to engage in society in a positive way.

    Should some decide to join the Armed Forces later in life, then that is their decision. I see it as my responsibility to ensure they have made a well-informed decision by furnishing them with the knowledge I have at my disposal from my own experiences.

    Your point about how can we live with the knowledge that a Cadet may become a casualty due to the fact they joined the Armed Forces as a result of our training is valid. You can quite easily go into a spiral of negative self-doubt about this issue. You should think of all of the positive impact you have made on your former Cadets’ lives. The training you have given them has resulted in life skills that they are, at this very moment, using with positive effect in society. Surely that alone far outweighs the negatives in this story? Negatives which see an individual doing a job they love, with people they are ultimately prepared to lose their lives for, regardless of the rights or wrongs of the reasons behind that conflict.

    For what it’s worth, that’s what I think anyway!


  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    Lt Rose,
    I have just watched the first episode in this series Sir and I have to say that it is quite humbling indeed. I'm flying out to Afghanistan on a 6 month tour next week. Being in the Navy it wasn't something I envisaged ever doing, but it is something I am very much looking forward to. I know that in all likelehood I will not be exposed to anywhere near the amount of danger that I witnessed on the programme and I wouldn't pretend otherwise, but I still think it is important that anyone going out there should have at least some grasp of what to expect. My wife is expecting our first child which is due almost the very day my tour is due to end, so what would have been a very difficult 6 months for her has been amplified somewhat. And eager as I am to go, it is hard to try and temper my enthusiasm with not wanting to appear insensitive. I can't begin to imagine what it was like for yourselves and your men out there, but if I was ever to encounter anything close to that then I would hope that I could carry myself with just an ounce of the professionalism and dignity that I witnessed. A truly awe inpsiring programme, many thanks,

    LS Thomas 'JR' Hartley.

  • Comment number 45.

    My grandfather was RAF 1936-1960 and was in Afghan in 1938. We are as proud of you and your colleagues and current service personnel as we were of him. I work in TV myself and I know exceptional tv programming when I see it. There was not a dry eye in my house when we watched this. I also lecture and guide around Europe a lot to do with WW2 keeping the memory of that era alive and I think you should know that everyone I meet have as much respect for today's service people as they do for those back in WW2. Thank you.


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