Video: Let me return to Afghanistan, says injured soldier

A HUNTINGDONSHIRE soldier who was almost killed by friendly fire has vowed to return to the front line as soon as he can. Private Josh Lee, 20, is lucky to be alive following the friendly attack in Helmand Province last summer. Three of his friends, in

A HUNTINGDONSHIRE soldier who was almost killed by friendly fire has vowed to return to the front line as soon as he can.

Private Josh Lee, 20, is lucky to be alive following the 'friendly' attack in Helmand Province last summer.

Three of his friends, including his best friend Private John Thrumble, were killed and Josh was flown back to the UK for extensive surgery.

In an exclusive interview with The Hunts Post he said his injuries would not deter him from heading back to Afghanistan with his regiment, the Royal Anglian Regiment (the Vikings).

"It's my job and it's what I am trained to do. It's a job like no other. It's so frustrating sitting here thinking I could be helping out there," he said.

Josh, who lives in Stonely, sustained burns to his face and upper body and was evacuated by helicopter to a medical facility at Camp Bastion for treatment before being flown to a specialist burns unit in Birmingham.

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The former Kimbolton School pupil had only been in Afghanistan for five-and-a-half months when he was injured in August.

"It is the luck of the draw," he said. "You know that you could be injured or killed but you just hope it doesn't happen to you or any of your friends."

He added: "You fight for your mates and you are constantly watching their backs and your own and you hope that is enough to keep you safe.

"I had to do a lot of growing up when I was out there. The average age of my platoon was 25 and, when you first go out there everyone looks so young, but later people age and we all looked about 30.

"The fighting drains you physically and mentally.

"But it is the worst thing being sent home injured. You do not want to be at home. You want to be out with your mates watching their backs."

Josh spent four-and-a-half weeks undergoing surgery to rebuild the left side of his face and repair his upper body.

Although he is still deemed unfit for active duty, Josh will be giving a public talk about his experiences.

The talk, in Kimbolton, will also include the screening of a DVD dedicated to the men who were killed in Afghanistan.

Life in a war zone...

FOR the majority of people, the war in Afghanistan seems a long way away, having no immediate affect on us or our everyday lives.

But for the soldiers fighting the Taliban, the grim toil of the conflict is very apparent.

For no one is this more true than for Josh Lee.

The 20-year-old was serving with the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment (the Vikings) when they were on duty in an area known for Taliban activity, suicide attacks, roadside bombings and ambushes.

At about 7.20pm on August 23, 2007 troops from the Vikings came under attack by Taliban insurgents while on patrol in the northern Helmand Province.

Air support was summoned in the form of two US F15 aircraft. One 500lb bomb was dropped on the British troops, killing three soldiers.

Privates Aaron James McClure from Ipswich, Robert Graham Foster, from Harlow, both 19, and John Thrumble, 21, from Chelmsford, all lost their lives.

At the time the Ministry of Defence said the soldiers were taking part in a patrol to disrupt Taliban activity just north-west of Kajaki. Although the event is still subject to an investigation and the inquests have yet to take place, one thing is clear - Josh had a very lucky escape.

Looking at him now you would be unable to tell what had happened to him, apart from the slightly visible scars to the tops of his arms.

Despite what happened, Josh, who is currently working with Army recruiters in Peterborough, is hoping to fight again.

"It's my job and it's what I am trained to do and I wouldn't want to do anything else," he said.

Describing the situation in Afghanistan he told The Hunts Post: "On the front line there's the constant threat of attack from the enemy, not to mention the intolerable desert environment with temperatures at about 46C or 47C. You are also carrying guns and grenades weighing up to 90kilos.

"You constantly have to be prepared for people with weapons and the Taliban look like civilians. They come out of holes in the ground and appear very close to you from out of nowhere.

"You're often terrified but you are trained for that and all your training kicks in when you come under attack."

Away from the frontline, life does not get much better. Troops live in desert huts made of sandbags and their only treats include cans of cola, bags of Haribo sweets and letters from home.

Josh's regiment arrived home in October and could go back on active duty next year.

During the Vikings' six month deployment in Afghanistan, the soldiers were involved in 350 engagements with the Taliban.

A total of 89 people from British forces or MOD civilians have been killed while serving in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001.

Josh's insight into his life in Afghanistan will be made public during a presentation in Kimbolton next week.

It is organised by the Royal British Legion and will also include a talk by Major Charles Calder of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

Money raised will be donated to the Widows Memorial Fund to help wounded soldiers and their families.

Pete Digby, chairman of the Kimbolton branch of the Royal British Legion, said: "We want to make people aware of some of the things that happen and why some people come home and others don't.

"We also want to give people the chance to support the troops who have been injured or the families who have lost sons during the conflict.

"This evening will be a warts-and-all of a soldier's life in Afghanistan."

INFORMATION: Tickets cost £6 for the event, which will take place in the Lewis Hall at Kimbolton School on Friday, April 4 at 7pm. Tickets must be purchased in advance from The Saddle, The Framery or Landins, all in Kimbolton High Street, or The Hunts Post offices in Huntingdon High Street.