Brother of Sunderland soldier killed by friendly fire lambasts defence chiefs over ‘fog of war’ claims

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THE brother of a solider killed after his base came under friendly fire from an Apache helicopter, has hit out at the Ministry of Defence.

William Roney criticised the MoD and senior Army officers at the fourth day of an inquest into the death of Lance Corporal Christopher Roney, of 3rd Battalion the Rifles.

The 23-year-old father-of-one was fatally wounded after the U.S. helicopter rained down 200 rounds of ammunition on Patrol Base Almas, in Sangin, Helmand, in December 2009.

Troops there had just won a fire fight with insurgents when two Apaches had been called in as back up.

But confusion at command headquarters meant pilots were given a series of co-ordinates close to the base – which was not on any maps - and British forces were mistaken for enemy fighters.

L/Cpl Roney, from Sunderland, was on a roof when he was hit and seven of 28 soldiers at the base were injured.

An army medic at the camp battled to save him, but he died the following day after being airlifted to Camp Bastion.

William Roney told the inquest: “The phrase ‘the fog of war’, which was used in the press by the MoD, instead of saying what should have been said, which was negligence, plain and simple.

“This has upset the family considerably and given the impression that Chris and his injured comrades meant very little to the MoD.”

He labelled one un-named witness as “blasé” and “unprofessional”.

“If they had paid more attention and followed protocol and notified their comrades at Patrol Base Almas of their intentions with the Apache attack helicopter then Chris and his comrades would have been OK,” he added.

Senior officers said lessons had been learnt from the tragic incident, including updating all Army maps of the area.

Major Philip Mileham said: “I just have every hope that the lessons that have come out of this incident will help provide reassurance in the future and in order to do that, it is very easy to say we have learnt a lesson, but unless that lesson is properly implemented and maintained in the future and not eroded by corporate memory being lost and resources being compressed, providing that does not happen, the lessons from this incident will help provide reassurance in the future.”

Patrol Base Almas had not being supplied with fluorescent strips visible to the Apache’s infra-red cameras.

There were Mocking Birds and Firefly infra-red transmitters, which could have been worn by troops to show US pilots they were dealing with friendly forces.

But Platoon commander Captain Palmer Winstanley said there just four in the platoon and they were rarely used, especially on base.

Bringing in fresh supplies of batteries to the remote camp was difficult and dangerous and it was believed enemy forces used infra-red detectors.

And Captain Winstanley added that they would have not been picked up by the thermal imaging system the Apaches were using.

He praised L/Corp Roney, who grew up in Silksworth, as “the ultimate warrior”.

“He just loved being in battle. I’ve never seen a man come alive more than when he was fighting.

“He was an outstanding individual.”

Coroner Derek Winter is expected to deliver his verdict today.