Michael: My name is Michael Coates. I am a former fire fighter but I am also a former soldier. It is the
stories from the individuals within this military community that I am desperate to document. Our next
guest won the military cross for his actions in the recovery of a fallen commando. His recovery mission
will go down in legend as 3 Royal Marines and a Royal Engineer attached themselves to an Apache
and flew into the hornet’s nest. Episode 31, Dave Rigg, this is Declassified.
Michael: So, you joined the Army in 2001. Went to Sandhurst. After Sandhurst a Troop Commanders
course ,as a Royal Engineer. Was the plan always then to do the All Arms Royal Commando course?
Dave: I was actually sponsored through Sandhurst by The Paras. Halfway through Sandhurst I
thought but the Engineers offered me more options. So, when I decided to join the Engineers, I was
intent either going down The Para route or the Commando route. The All Arms Commando Course
came up, so I snatched it up.
Michael: How does it work with the officers ?
Dave : It is a combination. It comes with availability and desire and I made it pretty clear I wanted to
do one or the other and there happened to be places at 5 Commando so that’s where I went.
Michael: Good Course?
Dave: Great course. Yes. You got to do the beat up first. It has changed a bit now but 59 want to
make sure they are sending down the best blokes because those guys represent 59 Commando and
Royal Engineers and you are on the course with gunners and all sorts of guys. All the Cores put their
best boys and give a good thrashing before they send down to the Commander Course. So, actually
you are pretty much well prepared before you go on the Commando Course. On my beat up, 12
started and 2 finished. I have an awesome photo of 4 DS and just 2 students.
Michael: Was that before the course started?
Dave: That was the end of the beat up before the Commando course, just 2 remaining engineer lads.
Michael: After the All Armed Course you went to 59, was that 2002?
Dave: 2003 that was. Telic 1 had kicked off and I was sent straight into theatre to catch the tail end of
Telic 1 and I think I didn’t really see much action other than a lot of naked marines running around
playing volleyball. I got a gold medal for it. Bit of a disgrace .
Michael : Modern day war fighting. Naked Marines and volleyball. (laughing)
Dave: Well their good-looking lads.
Michael: Is you time good then?
Dave: Yes, it was brilliant. I loved it really high calibre soldier. Really motivated. Based down in North
Devon which was fantastic. Access to the Winter Warfare course and all the training that the boot
necks do. I did the Army Dive course. I did a stint as Ops officer
Michael: Were you a captain when you left. 3 years with 59? Left as a Captain. Do you have to leave
after 3 years?
Dave: They move you around don’t they. It’s the way the Royal Engineers work. For your career to
progress. You have to move on to other more senior positions. We were just a squadron sop those
positions were just not available . So, I went to 2 Engineer Regiment in Hemel.
Michael: Was it different? What was the difference.
Dave: I had a fantastic time in Germany. The soldiers were slightly less physical but very professional
Episode 31 Dave Rigg MCDeclassified Podcast
motivated and probably slightly more disgusting in some ways, but I think that comes sticking a load
of blokes out in a camp, miles away from home. They bond in an unusual way. ( laughing)
Michael: I was at 35, down the road, and had similar experiences. You went on Herrick 6 or one of the
Herricks in 2006.
Dave: Herrick 4 I think 2006. It was shortly after John Reid made that famous announcement, that we
were going to go into Afghanistan resolve the problem, without a shot being fired. Primarily, it was
going to be a reconstruction tour. We were going to go in their build capacity and provide good
foundations for governments. But there were other themes as well. There was counter terrorism,
counter narcotics and there was nation building. We were trying to tackle those 3 strands
simultaneously. Which is very difficult. Counter narcotics means you are effectively on the ground
burning poppy fields and taking away the livelihood of people. If you take away someone’s means of
earning a crust and you are doing it in the name of the government, it is difficult to build the Nation
Building Theme, so it was all a bit confused.
Michael: I assume that is the battle group task. What was the Engineer task within it ?
Dave: 28 Engineer Regiment were primarily the construction group. It happened to be a Royal Marine
tour so 3 Commando Brigade were out there. We picked up the tail end of 16 Air Assault and it rolled
into 3 Commando Brigade. We had 59 back out there with us and those guys are doing combat
engineer stuff working with the infantry in clearing obstacles and providing basic fortifications on the
ground and the FOBS and that. And then 28 Engineer Regiment were providing the specific deliberate
construction tasks so building police check points and schools and community centres and stuff like
that just to help improve the infrastructure.
Michael: What area was this like? Was it a village, a town ?
Dave : All over Helmand.
Michael: So, the Regiment is split?
Dave: Yes, the Regiment is split. We have our headquarters started in Kandahar moved to Lashkar
Gah and then Bastian was established later. So, all the troops were in Bastian, but the headquarters
were in Lashkar Gar as that is where the Governor of Helmand was based. The Engineers were all
over Helmand . Sometimes we had jobs up in Sangin other times Geresh it just depended. Quite a lot
was going on in Lashkar Gah which was a permissive area at that time they were on side. The Taliban
were not operating in Lashkar Gah and it was a good place to demonstrate progress and build support.
Michael: Are you on the ground at this point. What’s your role there?
Dave: Mostly, No. I was not on the ground. I was in the Headquarters. I was the Regimental Ops
Officer. So just banging out op’s orders, planning, analysing, all the mapping and imagery. We got
involved in a lot of the PSYOP and intelligent assessments as well, but mostly doing the prep for the
Michael: So, there is a construction task to be done ,you are planning, almost like an Ops Room?
Dave: Yes, with the other Brigade staff and then the orders go down to the engineer squadron and
they then detail their bit and distribute instructions to the troops. It starts at Brigade level and the
orders filters down. And I was working at Brigade level.
Michael: What was the threat level? You said it was good. Lashkar Gah was a good place to be. But
was there a threat ? Were any of the tasks in high risk areas?
Dave: Yes, there were. Sangin was a really bad place to be. Down in Garmser was another hostile
environment that was primarily controlled by the Taliban. Nadi-e-Ali was not too bad but still a bit iffy.
When the guys were carrying out construction tasks, they were getting shot at there were mortars
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coming in and boot necks were working hard to maintain their security. As soon as you put a lot of
troops on the ground, they just became a target a magnate for the bad guys to come in. We were
pretty much prepared and there were ops. In Lashka har we were just aware about suicide bombers
and fairly small scale but high impact attacks.
Michal: So, at that time the main threat was suicide bombs and coming under attack, mortars and not
so much IED at this point?
Dave: IEDs were definitely there but in our immediate area the IED threat was not too high. We were
doing our best to avoid road moves but at that time we did not have a lot in the way of support
helicopters and road moves were inevitable and most of the FOBs were supplied by road move. Diesel
water and ammunition and all that shit was moving by road.
Michael: Although there were planned operations as well ( like attacks) as well intelligence gathering
that then led to the Marines going in and kind of sorting people out. There were clusters of those
strongholds like Taliban. I am saying it for a reason, fast forwarding to January now about 4 months in.
January 18th is that right ?
Dave: January 14th, 2007.
Michael: Could you take us back at suppose from early, early morning ?
Dave: So, this is the attack on Jugroom Fort. Jugroom Fort was, imagine a typical medieval fort that
was Jugroom Fort. It had a big perimeter wall it had a little wall it had watchtowers on the corners.
There were various compounds within and the intelligence we had indicated there war up to 200 men in
and around the area. It could be a threat. It was reckoned to be a staging place for recruits coming
from Pakistan. It was South of Ganzar, quite far, just adjacent on the east side of the River Helmand.
And we reckoned we had been looking at it for a long time and it was definitely, strategically important
to neutralise them because they were – that’s where all recruits were coming in, trained, armed and
causing chaos. We decided we had to do something about it. But there were too many blokes there
and too well fortified for us to directly attack it, so we developed a plan. At this stage I had been
seconded out to the Battle Group that had been working in the Helmand province called the IX
Battlegroup mostly Royal Marines, simm…155 guns and Brigade Reconnaissance Troop force were
bolstering it. About 500 blokes in supporting this Battlegroup. I am xx we developed a plan it had
basically us boys forming a defensive line on the west bank of the river Helmand and just probing the
enemy offensive. Rules of engagement are tight. We cannot without positive. So, we spotted a few
likely firing points and we were going to probe those and then just watch for a response. We had air
assets also Apaches primed to hit them hard and try and neutralise the capability from a distance.
The battlegroup had been down in the desert we had stepped up a mini FOB out in the desert about 5
KM West of the Fort. The RECE Guards had been out checking it out. Keeping an eye on it. It was
fairly quiet . Big question was if we had to go in – how you would go in as the River Helmand is quite a
significant obstacle and the boys had identified a ford across the river that the local farmers were using
to get their tractors back and forth. We had this one crossing point if we needed it. We conducted all
our battle prep out in the desert . Zulu Company were the infantry company boots on the ground. And
then as the kind of prepare developed this be prepared to instruction kind of entered all this process
and it was . we were going to. The primary order was to just probe the enemy defences .I can’t
remember the correct term, but there was a prepare to dominate the ground should the opportunity
Michael: To go on attack?
Dave : Yes. Put boots on the ground and close and contact the enemy in the fort. So strictly the
battlegroup should have been in their preparations and should have been rehearsed in that order. I am
not sure it was ever fully rehearsed or really taken that seriously simply because the intelligence was
pretty clear it was well fortified with too many blokes there was no way we had the 3:1 ratio to attack
for a position like that. So, on the night of the 13th the boys all moved into position and about 1 o’clock
in the morning we were sort of firing into those known positions where we had seen sentry’s with
Episode 31 Dave Rigg MCDeclassified Podcast
weapons. All predefined firing points. There was very little coming back at us it was pretty quiet. And
that carried on for a couple of hours, I guess. We got assets in the sky with a video feed beamed into
us. The battlegroup headquarters, the headquarters staff are in a tent in the desert 5km West. And we
are watching the video feed and we are listening to the radio, video is grainy, so you are reliant on what
the guards tell you on the radio. The CO conferred with his Ops Officer decided that we were going to
carry out that be prepared order go in and dominate the ground. And that seemed reasonable as there
was bugger all happening not that we had the guns. We had a hell of a lot of fire power, so it didn’t
seem at the time an unreasonable thing to do.
Michael: How many , blokes, Royal Marines on the ground?
Dave: There was an engineer probably about 70. In that order of magnitude. Not precise.
It was a company minus maybe it was 50. We called the OC and the Viking Commander the guys
moving around in these vehicles called Vikings ( tracked army vehicles) and delivered some quick battle
orders and it pretty rapid process I briefed on the ground. Everyone was clear simple we knew where
to cross the plan was to send the Vikings straight up and straight across the river as fast as you can
single file, fan out. There was a bit of dead ground immediately in front of the outer wall. It was kind of
soft a ploughed field basically. The boys were going to fan out there . Move to the perimeter wall and
then it was down to the Commander on the ground to respond appropriately on where the enemy was.
So, they mounted up. We could see them from the video feed. We could see the Vikings steaming
across the river and they are really going for it. It was still quiet we have Apache watching us. Not
much going on. But as soon as the first Viking hit the far part of the river just all hell broke loose. The
enemy just let rip with everything they had. Clever. They had been waiting until the Marines were in
their effective range of their weapons so pretty disciplined drew them in and they knew if they were
going to be attacked where they were going to come from and fired all the power on them. The Viking
top gunners have xgimpee xx and now that we can see the firing points the place just becomes alive,
as we have these infra-red camers.
Michael: So, you are a few miles back
Dave: I am 5km back, but you can see on the video feed these dark pictures just livened up with bits
of light everywhere, so you start getting all the contact points on the radio. But there is bugger all we
can do; we are just watching it’s down to the commands on the ground to respond appropriately.
Obviously, the Guards control the air and the Guns are placing orders for their guys . and then the first
means to debus got hit so there were 3 guys with gunshot wounds pretty much like that and every guy
takes 2 blokes to sort out. That first sections rendered useless and then we have lost the momentum
and it then starts to go tits up pretty quick. Because even those that weren’t hit were pinned down and
there was a lot of incoming and there was just open ground there was a slight kind of reverse slope
leading it to the river so at one side you have a river and the other side you have a whole load of the
bad guys heavily
Michael: With one exit point ?
Dave: But the Vikings keep coming the boys keep piling up on the ground east of the river in front of
the Fort. They are just getting on the belt buckle and trying to.
Michael: Is all the fire power from the lads or is anything coming in from the air?
Dave: Yes, the Apaches are now giving supporting fire and we are dropping these 500lbs on the
unidentified and its really hot now. But they are well dug in and they are concealed so it was really hard
to pinpoint them. And the other problem was there is loads of cultivated ploughed field around, so it is
clear the area is populated with civilians, so you are worried about collateral. So, there is only so
much. And when we are so close to the enemy and you have all those collateral issues it is very
difficult for the air power to have a change, it was going to take the heat of the boys, but it wasn’t
going to change he situation. And it didn’t go very well. There were other factors that I won’t go into
now, but it just meant the attack had lost its momentum and the only option was to mount an orderly
Episode 31 Dave Rigg MCDeclassified Podcast
withdrawal and a regroup. So, Sergeant Major sorted his boys out got them back in the Vikings. Got
his casualties back evacuated the rest of his boys without further casualties. It was impressive he was
a Brummie and just got in amongst the boys kicked them up the arse and made it happen. They have
got them off the belt buckles and managed a withdrawal. A pepper pot back into the vehicles and get
Michael: Are you hearing all this back in the ops room ?
Dave: You hear some of it they have their own net you don’t hear all of it, but you hear most of it the
high levels. And at this point I am kind off I don’t really have a job I did what I did I am just trying to
make myself useful. Casualties come back so I am administering some basic first aid keeping them
warm until the casavac comes in. And there were some remarkable escapes. There is one guy with his
helmet with this massive scrape across the metal where he has basically deflected an RPG … he has
an old-fashioned cigar case in his breast pocket got 7 to 6 rounds in it. ( laughing) Most of them only
had one gunshot wound the evidence was there that there was a lot more going on and they were
lucky to get away with it.
We are trying to sort us out and Zulu Company doing their reorg and there were rumours started to go
around that there was bloke missing. And initially I though bollocks it’s just chaotic he will be alright.
And then it became clear the Corporal Ford had been left on the objective. And then it just went the
horrible sickening feeling that you experience at that point when you realise one of the boys has been
left in the enemy territory and now you can see it’s a hornets nest there are just bodies coming out of
everywhere and its lively and they are pumped up because they have just affectedly won a battle
against the best the British army have to throw at them. So, they are pumped up and they have one of
our guys and it was awful, an awful feeling.
Michael: What is the time frame between initially going out crossing the river and now back on the
withdrawn and then knowing that this guy has gone missing?
Dave: A couple of hours
Michael: Is it light now?
Dave: Yes, it is light now. Bout 5 to 6 in the morning. But we don’t know where he is. We know that
they are now ready waiting for us. We know the initial intelligence is right it is absolutely rammed of
men at fighting age and we know that there is only one way in, and we have no support helicopters. To
get him out we have to go back in across the river, and we didn’t really know where he was if they had
collected him and so while you know in theory you always go back you never leave a bloke behind. At
this stage you think is this a sensible thing to do to send another dozen lives trying to recover this guy.
Michael: Do you know if he is alive or dead ?
Dave: We don’t know where he is, he is not with us . so we deployed one of these, look like you get
from Hamleys deployed one of those and the boys which were operating those things although we had
an anlyast studying the footage we used that to identify what was a person it was slumped over lying
down at the just on the far side of the perimeter wall. He has not gone into the compound and there is
no one else around. We can see where the nearest enemy are, but they are not moving towards him,
so it looks like maybe they haven’t spotted him, but he is not moving. So, we call on the Apache. They
have much better optics and they confirm that it is definitely a Royal Marine and the infra-red camera
indicates that he might still be alive so at that point it was clear we have got to get him there was no
debate in that. The Brigade Commanders on the blower now to the CO and he is now driving it as well:
“You got to go in. You got to get him.”
The Staff Officers have to come up with a plan. It was pretty simple there was only one-way in. We
don’t have any clever tricks up our in our bag. No support helicopter so we have to use the Vikings. So
the Viking Commander gets called up he gets briefed on the ground showing where Corporal Ford was
and where the enemy were and you know he just had to take 4 Vikings straight in pumped in the
support covering fire and then the other one was the Guards going to get out and get the casualty in
Episode 31 Dave Rigg MCDeclassified Podcast
the Viking and get out.
Michael: How far was he from the river
Dave: 300 meters Distance ?
Michael: How close was he to the outer wall?
Dave: 5 or 10 meters. So, he is obviously I still don’t know how? He must have been one of the first
guys that dismount and got to where he was meant to go . But he got isolated. He was the radio
operator, so he had all the kit as well. So yes . But now we know the rules of engagement are less of a
problem and we have identified all the firing points and we know they are bad guys. The guns and the
AK10 thunderbolts are coming in and they were thumping them as well and the Apache we have loads
of support fire now it’s not all bad. But it’s still a pretty scary prospect and I remember feeling distinctly
relieved that I was not the Viking Commander. But just before he stepped off to do it the Apache guys,
one of the – he calls himself “Ed Macy”, he wrote a book ( that’s his ghost name) . But we will call him
“Ed.” He calls up the CO and obviously starts briefing him on his plan and at this stage we don’t know
what is coming on, but we assume more intelligence.
CO has a quick chat with the Ops officer and we are called into the tent and the CO says right the
Apaches have an alternative plan they want to stick 2 guys on the Apache 4 guys in total 2 Apaches
going in and we are going to get them that way. I need some volunteers. I initially when he said that I
thought fucking brilliant we got some Special Forces coming in and they have some special drill that
they carry out and they are going to do it. And there was a moment when I was mega relieved
someone professional is going to sort this out. And then he said we need some volunteers. And I
thought, shit, we have got to do this. So, we volunteered. We are partly responsible for the mess. So,
we felt obliged to do something about it.
So, a few of us volunteered and the CO scans around the tent. He is like “No you need to be
controlling the guns. You are doing RECE . You are doing that. And then he got to me and said
“Captain Rigg YOU ARE GOING.” Fuck. I was buckshee. Anyways. “Alright. Ok.” Moments later
the RSM pocked his head in the tent and he had been sorting out casualties and doing some admin, to
get an update. And the CO goes “ Good RSM Good You Will Go Too” And the RSM was like “yes.” No
idea. Not a clue. ( laughing)
And then the other 2 guys, Marine Robinson a signaller and Marine Fraser-Perry another signaller. He
had only been in the marines 18 months probably only 19 years old . He knew Corporal Ford quite
well. So those boys I think they were Frazer-Perry had just woken up and his boss said, “the CO
needs some help” and he grabbed his rifle and “get over their Captain Rigg will brief you.”
So, I got the boys and W1 Colin Hearn, Gary Robinson and Marine Fraser-Perry, and I had been
working with WS1 and I knew the RSM he is a good lad and we had a good rapport. Marine Robinson
another good lad stocky solid quite happy with him on board. And Chris Frazer-Perry, he just looked
like you could blow him over with the wind . He was so green, but you know.
Michael: They are all Royal Marines ?
Dave: Yes. Because I had been a party to the planning, I am the one who knows what is going on, so I
said right boys we are going to go and get Corporal Ford and we are going to go in on the Apaches .
And the lads just kind of looked back at me wide eyed okay. But not a question not a hesitation. They
were in regardless. I could have told them we were going to go in with bayonetted and go across the
river they would have done. That is what is phenomenal
Michael: What you had told them was probably worse there is no more exaggeration that the flying in
on Apache .
Dave: So, we kind of left it a moment to sink in and then so how. Apaches they are helicopter
gunships they don’t really kind of carry passengers . “I don’t know lads”. They are coming, and they
Episode 31 Dave Rigg MCDeclassified Podcast
will brief us but show them there is a perimeter wall here, Corporal Ford is here and Fraser-Perry in one
apache we will go in the perimeter wall and RSM and marine Robinson you take the apache as soon
as we are put down, we will go to the perimeter wall and take cover there and you boys join us, and we
will get the casualty and evacuate him.
Simple, the only detail we did not have this stage was where we were going to go on the apache and
how that hierarchy was going to work out. It all happened pretty quick the Apache swooped over the
tent and popped down just behind us and we ran up to these Apache and the canopy swung open and
the Pilot gave us the thumbs up as if to say “right boys are you ready to go?” I was like “ NO ! where
how what…..” and he started shouting instructions down to us but the engine is still turning I couldn’t
hear a word listen you got to come out we have to have a brief so he kind of reluctantly gets out the
aircraft and we find a move away from the helicopters and crouch down in the desert and sketch out a
little map on the sand. The helicopter is going to go there. And there is the wall and then he explains
we going to sit on the stubby little wing on the Apache so there is something to hang onto in this.
Michael: You carry on….
Dave: And frankly no one really wanted to be strapped to the Apache we were quite keen . And the
last thing we wanted to be attached to was the Apache as it was going to be attacked and as soon as
that came anywhere near the ground we were out of there and on the way in you are hoping to blend in
and hoping the bad guys don’t l…. and “so that’s all clear. Right. Fine. Simple. Sit on the side. Happy
with that boys.” Our RSM he thought it was a wind up he now realises this is actually happening and
the young lads again no hesitation straight in. Right off we go. So, we just took up our positions on the
At first it was quite comfy there were reasonable sized seat spot to sit on and I was holding my left
hand on a grab hold, and my right hand someplace, for my left foot on the fuselage and my right foot
resting on the hellfire missile rails. standard way to travel. We take off. We swoop over our tents. I
remember looking down and the rest of the HQ staff had all come out some were waving some were
taking photos it’s all right for you guys.
Michael: Had it been done before?
Dave: Not to what I know. I heard the Yanks had used it. The SF might tell you otherwise but
Michael: Un-standard practice? In regard to kind of suicide mission and a very safe move where is
this sitting in between everything?
Dave: That’s a good question. I had a moment of panic. This place we are going into back into enemy
objective has been really stoked up now there are bodies everywhere its full of bad guys there is a lot of
fire, it’s got to be 50:50 on whether we pull this off. And then you are back into it you have blokes to
organise and its down to me to come and lead.
Michael: Was it all very quick turnaround ?
Dave: Yes, it was we didn’t have time to dwell on it. You just focus on what you have to do. I then felt
pretty calm about it. You kind of accepting there was no question about it we had to do this and
actually yes. Shit was going to happen we were going to give it our best shot.
Michael: Pictures had been taken people waving to you. You go off what was that ride like?
Dave: Pretty smooth ( laughing). Right behind my head I have the engine you feel your head is going
to have you feel you have to bend stoop forward to avoid blocking the engine and causing God knows
what. And then we are flying across the desert at low level about 50 feet and it’s a beautiful day it’s
about 15 degrees sun is up no clouds shepherds and the camels and goats all going about their
business. Oblivious to all the drama that we are now involved in. But then on the horizon you look
across to where the river is and there is just a complete contract there is smoke and dust and fire and
Episode 31 Dave Rigg MCDeclassified Podcast
the noise of the prefire going in and getting a good thrashing now. We have 500 lbs we had .fire going
off and the other 2 Apache going in and its absolute carnage and just the shroud of dust and smoke
over the objective now. I mentioned that the weapon a couple of problems to . Reluctant to go into
but. The first one was that for 4 months I sat in the headquarters mostly in Lashka har go just a desk
jockey banging away at a keyboard and my rifle has been collecting dust and crap and all sorts in the
rifle rack and as a good officer I’ve not really paid much attention to it as I haven’t really needed it and
now all of a sudden . Jesus now I need it and no idea if it’s going to work. You know what the S80 is
like unless you give it TLC, they are temperamental. and I’ve not test fired it Shit fuckn might as well
bang out a few rounds while I can just to make sure it is working. So I leaned out over the way so fired
off a couple of test rounds in quick session and it worked beautifully but the noise of the firing caused
the pilots to spin round in their seat and caused the pilots “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON “ and I
think they thought I had an MD and I am trying to say I’m just test firing. And they are going “NO NO
NO” and I think because the empty cases could have been sucked into given me a good bollocking
through the canopy and this works
So we carry on we are supposed to leave the helicopter for chaos reigned and we are now the second
helicopter and we kind of come in and move across the river and we are south of the objective and we
are tracking in and we are trying to time it so as the bomb stopped we go in … bosh. Timing was
everything. Momentum was key. They probably were not expecting this. It was new and unusual .
The lead helicopter just didn’t hesitate and dived straight in and the dust had not subsided the visibility
was awful and dived down and forwards and disappeared into the dust and we are a bit more caution
come in behind and I can see down to my right a plot of trees still smouldering and there is definitely
someone firing from that facility. I am making like a chameleon on the side of the Apache trying to
blend in and it is a sight. The place is just a had an absolute thrashing. Anyway we carry on and the
viability clears a little bit and it became obvious where we could put down and its clear we came down
on front of the no sign of the other helicopter and then I realised because it had gone in so early that it
had over flown the wall and landed in the Talban garden now. Inside the fort. And I thought just two of
us now. Well we are fucking here now.
As soon as that I was off leapt of the wing and I ran as fast as I could where I knew Corporal Ford was I
recognised the ground it must have been a 200 meter sprint to Ford and it was soft ploughed ground
so it was like running through soft beach by the time I got to him I was absolutely ball bagged. I
shouldn’t have been really there even though I had been sat in HQ I had been doing fitness. He was
slumped over by the wall and I could see a dark patch covering most of his back. I kneel down beside
him and roll him over. His face is grey, and he has got a hole in his head, and he is definitely dead. In a
way it was simpler. I just had to go and get him back. There was just a lot of gunfire going on now.
Michael: From both sides?
Dave: The Apaches are firing 30mm chain gun
Michael : The Apaches are firing ?
Dave : The brass cases are landing round my ears. But they are putting stuff back and there are
mortars coming back they are not well aimed they are just firing pot shots and clearly got their heads
down. But you are not thinking clearly at this point I can just hear a lot of gun fire and I just want to get
out of there.
I try to lift Corporal Ford. I couldn’t. In training when you do the fireman’s carry you do it on the
Commander course it’s part of the test you have to run 100 meters with a casualty on your back and
they have all their kit on fighting order. I never had a problem with that. Physically I was pretty strong.
But I couldn’t even lift the guy he was a big lad. 14 stone he still had his radio kit on and a reasonable
size bergen and his firearms. So, he is heavy. So, I just had to drag him but instead of just grabbing
his webbing and dragging him back and not ( I fuckn) – put my arms under his arms and trying to kind
of protect his head and get him back you know gently. I don’t know why. I was making slow progress,
and can you imagine you are bent down and kind of walking backwards trying to get his dead body
back and it was hard. And then Frazer-Perry joined me . I still don’t know what the delay was, but it
was really good to have someone else them that lifted my spirits . But I am a senior bloke, so he is just
Episode 31 Dave Rigg MCDeclassified Podcast
falling my lead, so he sees me baby carrying this guy back and he then grabs his boots and lifts his
boots and it was no good they are heavy . But I am not – but I should have just gripped it and grabbed
his webbing and.
Michel: Was there a respect thing there? Respecting his body ? If he had been alive and screaming.
Dave: My drills were rusty and I … one minute I am in the headquarters planning and doing paperwork
and the next minute I am on an enemy objective and all hell has broken loose. I just really had not
adjusted to it all.
Michael: Acclimatised to it all?
Dave: We are really making a hash at this and the clock is ticking, and it must have been painful to
watch and the guys on the other side were watching and my rifle kept on falling off my shoulder and
smacking him on the head. And I couldn’t take that . Fuck it I can’t use my rifle anyway, so I put my rifle
down. Which is the last thing you do as a soldier . It’s just liked the cardinal rule. Anyway, I put my rifle
down and we are getting there but we are. it’s like and Ed sees this kind of shambles going on, so he
leaps out of the helicopter and runs to us and basically takes charge and right grabs by the webbing.
So, the 3 of us run back with him and once we had been shown how to do it, we were thinking straight
. it all happened pretty quick. Got him back to the helicopter attached put round his torso. Put him
onto the undercarriage. And we are pretty much set then but at that point the other 2 boys turned up.
We were like, “where the FUCK has you been?” They were like we landed over there we had to run
around the Taliban compound and all shooting us. Where was the helicopter ? it is still in the
compound? “We are done you are going to have to run back and get out”. They basically turned up.
They are all absolutely ball bagged . Breathing hard ,looking pretty disturbed and then they had to turn
around and go back. ( laughing)
So that was that. We just got on the helicopters and took off and flew back across the river and it was
pretty sad. You could see everyone watching in the distance. You could see them all. And our
helicopters got Corporal Ford hanging limp from beneath it. And that boy. Everyone knows he is
dead. And yes. Flew back. Landed. Yes. Had a cigarette.
Michael: Who unbuckled him when you got there?
Dave: I did. It was hard. We had to direct the helicopter. We had to make sure we did not actually
land on him. So yes. ( breathing)
Michael: What was the mood like then to those minutes and hours after. With the lads. Did you kind
of get back involved with the blokes who knew him or were you just back in ops going about ?
Dave: It did not get to normal . We did not crack on with normal business at all. The mood was kind of
low. And there were lots of you know, then you start thinking it through. What happened to the
intelligence what and why what happened in the attack? It was not a good day. So, the next day we
had a service in the dessert. The Padre came down and he said a few words and fired off one of the
light guns into the fort and just had a moment to reflect, I guess.
Michael: I know it was a processing a moving machine that was going on but were you proud of your
actions on the day ?
Dave: When I reflect on it there was lots of things, I should have done better . But at the end of the
day I volunteered, and we got him back and I guess that is what matters.
Michael: Briefing wise. Debriefing wise. Lessons learned. Were there any military lessons learned
from this? Are there any personal lessons learned immediately ?
Episode 31 Dave Rigg MCDeclassified Podcast
Dave : I think we stopped calling them lessons learned. Lessons identified l we call it now. Lots of
lessons identified . I could not say they were learned that was 2007 I left beginning of 2009. But
hopefully there were certainly lots of good material to reflect on everything from the tactics to the
leadership to the command and control.
Michael: You won the Military Cross for the actions on the day. March 2008, you received the Military
Cross. And then a year later you left. What was the reasons why you left?
Dave: No no. Listen, I had a brilliant time. I joined the military for the venture and excitement and I
certainly got that not just from that instance but through all the exercises and courses I did . And the
blokes working with soldiers is a cliché it is a huge privilege there is no one more grounded or kind of
levelling as a good old-fashioned squaddie . They don’t. The mood on civi street sometimes at job
interviews so how you are going to manage you’ve come from the army and used to give instructions
and soldiers just do what they are told. That’s bollocks soldiers want to know why they are being
asked to close and kill the enemy. They need to know what’s happening around them they need to feel
motivated and there tough and their cheeky and their goby and you have got to be pretty good to
manage that and when you are leading high calibre blokes like that. So, all of that was brilliant. I left
primarily because I kind of came to a natural junction, I guess. It was Go on to do a staff college and
do a staff job or buy out and start life on civi street. And even if you do a feel career in the military you
all have to leave eventually.
Michael: You have no immediate family you weren’t married or had kids. You have 2 boys now. Have
you ever told this story to them?
Dave: Oh Yes. (laughing) Loads of time. Ham it up a bit. Stuff “The Gruffalo.” We are doing the
Michael: I remembered when it happened, I had not long left. It really ignited everything that you want
it to be and do in the military. This amazing kind of operation. I remember reading it in the Guardian the
bit where you said there was test firing with the rifle; they were saying there was test firing with the rifle
in guardian these apaches were firing into the Talban position. But it was really amazing. It will go
down in legend this mini op within an op. Your boys what do they think about it.
Dave: They think it is great. You give them the kind of respect for the gory details but obviously the
general theme is a brilliant boys war story. It’s not as inspirational as some of the stories you have
covered. But it is a great story and Yes, my boys are really just typical lads and love a bit of rough and
tumble. I have this cartoon book that I think Jeremy Clarkson put together and it is done in partnership
with The Sun and they do whole cartoon strip of it and they have us strapped into the hellfire missile
rocket rails so part of the Apache armourment ( these nutcase Commandos). They take that book to
school and the teachers don’t know what to make of it.
Michael: They should be proud . This conversation. We get one side from it in books and articles. But
there is some reality from this. There is you have shown emotion today. And we cannot forget a lad
died in this.
Michael: and this conversation was always for me was about the whole kind of legend around it but
also understanding there was fuck ups and that was part of it all. So, this overall Apache mission was
also lessons learned but there is a lot to be taken from it. Mate, thanks so much for coming in. I really
appreciate this it’s such a good hour for me and we will leave it there.
Dave: Good. Thankyou mate. Thankyou.