Soldiers killed by 'friendly fire' - inquest

A 500lb bomb was dropped from a US aircraft onto three East Anglian soldiers - killing them all - because grid coordinates communicated between an air controller and American weapons officer "did not marry up", an inquest heard today.

Naomi Cassidy

A 500lb bomb was dropped from a US aircraft onto three East Anglian soldiers - killing them all - because grid coordinates communicated between an air controller and American weapons officer "did not marry up", an inquest heard today.

Privates Aaron McClure, 19, from Ipswich, Robert Foster, 19, from Harlow, and John Thrumble, 21, from Mayland, were under intense fire in Helmand when a US F15 aircraft, called to help, dropped the bomb on them instead of a Taliban position one kilometre further north.

The three soldiers, of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, died in the blast on August 23 2007, the inquest at Trowbridge Town Hall in Wiltshire heard.

Privates McClure and Thrumble were on the roof of a compound and Private Foster was in the house firing from a window when the order to strike was given by their platoon commander Major Antony Borgnis.

Sgt Mark Perren, a forward air controller, passed on the order to the Weapons Support Officer (WSO2) aboard the US aircraft.

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However, there was an “incorrect clarification” of grid references, the inquest heard.

The hearing is set to be adjourned this afternoon until February.

Before the hearing started, Hilary Meredith the solicitor for the three families of the dead soldiers as well as two injured soldiers, Stuart Parker and Joshua Lee, made a statement questioning why the incident happened.

Private McClure, of Marlow Road, Ipswich, Private Foster from Harlow and Private Thrumble from Mayland, who were serving with the 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, were killed when they were hit by a bomb dropped by an American jet in August 2007.

Mrs Meredith said: “First and foremost the families are here to support their boys, as are Stuart Parker and Joshua Lee.

“We want to find out why in today's modern warfare mistakes like this can happen. It should not happen and we want to make sure it is prevented from happening again.”

Mrs Meredith said the families had hoped the inquest would be completed before Christmas.

Captain Ian Robinson, welfare officer for the Ist Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, said: “The families have asked me to issue a short statement on their behalf.

“Today is a very painful day for all the families who are focussing on their sons' tragic deaths. They also want everyone to know their thoughts and prayers are with the family of Lance Corporal Drane, who was killed last week in Afghanistan.”

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