Norfolk soldier releases Afghanistan frontline footage

It was one of the toughest and bloodiest tours in the history of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment.

Four years after losing nine men in Afghanistan, the Vikings are entering millions of living rooms as part of a dramatic and gritty new documentary depicting life on the frontline for the British Army.

Home movie footage from a Norfolk soldier's battles against the Taliban in Helmand Province in 2007 is being aired on national television.

Colour Sgt Simon Panter, of Harleston, who recorded the majority of 3 Platoon's six month tour in Now Zad, Afghanistan, on a helmet camera, gave BBC3 unprecedented permission to use the footage for a documentary about life on the frontline for the infantry soldiers.

The 40-year-old father-of-two last night said it was important to show the British public the reality of the army's fight and sacrifices against the Taliban.

The Norfolk man's film was used in BBC3's first episode of 'Our War: 10 Years in Afghanistan' series which aims to give a soldier's eye view of the conflict.

The episode, which was shown on Tuesday and will be broadcast again on Sunday night, shows the moment when 3 Platoon is ambushed whilst clearing the Taliban stronghold of Sorkani and the aftermath of an attack, which left 19-year-old Private Chris Gray critically injured on April 13 2007.

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Colour Sergeant Panter, who tried to resuscitate his colleague who was declared dead on arrival at Camp Bastion, said it was difficult to watch the film back.

'I do not show the footage back here. I find it a bit hard.'

'It is important to get it out there and it shows what the soldiers are doing and what they have to do on a day-to-day basis,' he said.

The uncensored film shows the men's thrill at being involved in a live fire fight with the Taliban for the first time and their revenge following the loss of Private Gray.

Colour Sgt Panter, who was platoon sergeant for 3 Platoon during the 2007 tour, said he had 'no idea' that the footage would be used for a national television programme when he took his camera to Afghanistan.

'It was really for personal use to look back on and use it to see what things went well and what went bad. It helps to piece together the whole of the fire fights. You turn it on at the beginning of the day and you forget about it,' he said.

The former Stradbroke schoolboy was mentioned in dispatches in a Royal Anglian honours ceremony in 2008 for his leadership. He added that he was looking forward to another deployment to Afghanistan with the battalion early next year, after missing last year's tour because of a broken ankle.

'It sounds strange, but it has not put me off in any way. I'm a soldier and that is what I do. There is still contact with the enemy, but it is not as kinetic as four years ago,' he said.

Colour Sgt Panter added that he pleased to hear that the documentary on Tuesday had received 1.3m viewers - a record for a BBC3 programme.

The programme, which contains very strong language and some upsetting scenes, will also be available online on BBC iPlayer for the next 20 days.

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