Another week another BBC3 documentary but this one isn’t any documentary but the winner of the Documentary Series award at the recent BAFTA TV Awards. Our War is a first-hand look at modern combat in Afghanistan edited together primarily using the soldiers’ own video footage as well as those from the perspective of their helmet cams. This first episode introduces us to the men of Arnhem Company 2nd battalion Duke of Lancaster unit often referred to as the Lions of England who were sent out to Helmand Province in August of 2010. Their leader was Sergeant Andrew Griffiths, the son of a brigadier who often got stick for his background but, as we are told by the other members of his troop, was always able to back it up. His second in command, Martin Bowden-Williams, described the battalion as professionals while another officer claimed that as they were from different areas of the country they shouldn’t get along but they ended up having a laugh together, as we see in one scene as a member of the group complained that his mum had packed a Tracker Bar into his packed lunch.
Arnhem Company’s main mission was to essentially pick a fight with the Taliban by luring them away from Route Trident, an important through road in Afghanistan which couldn’t completed due to attacks from the group, and nearer to their base camp in order for the road to be finished. As they were essentially trying to snare the enemy into their camp the mission was called ‘Operation Kick The Hornet’s Nest’ which ended up being more bloody than any of them good think. As Sgt Wilson switched on his helmet cam we were thrust right into the operation as the Taliban got very close to their compound very quickly throwing grenades as Griffiths desperately tried to get his men to fight back. The men though were soon outnumbered as minibuses of insurgents turned up as reinforcements creeping around Arnhem Company’s blind side and Griffiths lost his first man when his 2nd in Command was hit. Luckily, as we see through more footage, the bullet managed to miss anything serious as the group joke with the man they called ‘Willow’ and at this point I could see how much gallows humour is employed during war for the men to try and lighten the extremely dark mood.
After a while though Griffiths realised they weren’t in control and tried to send a group of men away from the camp however this was a mistake as Kingsman Darren Deady was soon shot through the heart. For me the fight to save Deady was possibly the most intense moment of this episode of Our War as the group’s medic desperately tried to find a vein in which to put the saline drip into as he describes how he needed to utilise ‘The Golden Hour’ which is the time from Deady being shot to the time he gets to a hospital. Though Deady was safely taken away in a helicopter none of the men knew his exact condition but the fact that he’d been shot meant they there were now out for revenge. From the interviews given most of the men felt they given all they could however fatigue had set in and while Griffiths took his men away from the safety of the compound it seemed that the Taliban had booby-trapped it planting IEDs in several places. As the men had been talking about Griffiths in the past tense throughout the episode I knew what was about to happen and indeed he was severely injured and flown into the same hospital as Deady. As we heard from Deady’s mother and Griffiths’ father about how good it was to spend time with their sons we also knew that the inevitable was coming and indeed we learnt that both men had passed away within days of each other. As the men of their company paid tributes to their fallen comrades it seemed that at least their deaths weren’t in vain because Route Trident was finished during ‘Operation Kick The Hornet’s Nest’ which one man claimed was a small victory but a victory nonetheless.
When you hear the name of another soldier whose been killed in Afghanistan you do feel sorry for their families but ultimately they’re just another name that has been needlessly killed in this war. What Our War does is shows you that these men are actually real people with families who love them and colleagues who fully respect their work and what they lend to their battalion. The footage used really plunges you into the heart of their war and in particular when the fighting really starts it becomes a very hard watch. I know several times I made noises of amazement and shock with Deady’s shooting in particular hitting me hard when one of the men recalls reaching into his uniform and his hand comes out caked in blood. I really invested emotionally in what I’d seen on screen so when the inevitable announcements of the deaths of Deady and Griffiths were announced I welled up a little bit. I had admiration for all of their relatives and especially Griffiths’ father who used his son’s death as a way of teaching new recruits about the perils of war. Personally I think new recruits should also watch this series as it really gives you a first-hand feel of what these men have to go through some at a very early age. Overall Our War gave me a new found respect for our soldiers and the brilliant job they do over in Afghanistan and I would recommend everyone watch this programme as it really had an impact on me.
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