Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Wounded 'Soldier F' speaks: I thought we were goners

He was injured and ignored. Now Cpl Peter Page reveals his concerns about the leadership in a fatal firefight

A Kiwi soldier shot by his own side in Afghanistan is calling for a public inquiry into the firefight that killed two Kiwi soldiers last August.

The injured man, who the army labelled "Soldier F" this week when it released its long-awaited Court of Inquiry report into the "Battle of Baghak", has spoken out in an exclusive interview with the Herald on Sunday.

Peter Page, a former corporal, said there was a succession of mistakes in the lead-up to the firefight in which Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone were killed, meaning forces were placed in extreme danger.

Poor communication between units led to him being fired on twice by NZ forces, he claims.

He and several other soldiers were wounded while on foot patrol during the battle, and he says he was shot at again while being winched off the steep cliff face by helicopter.

He also believes New Zealand forces opened fire on friendly Afghan forces, who returned fire.

This has been hotly denied by the military who, in an unusual move when releasing their report, described Page as "disillusioned" and struggling to come to terms with what had happened. The army released sensational helmet footage of the battle this week and said it was the biggest firefight its forces had been involved in since Vietnam.

In his gripping account, Page says the deaths were caused by "gung-ho" attitudes and a culture of complacency. Page also claims:

• Troops were unprepared after four months on deployment without action;
• Commanders were too aggressive and rushed into battle;
• An officer later boasted it was like a "turkey shoot".

Page, who served two tours in Afghanistan and nine years in total, has since left the Defence Force, angry at the way his claims have been dismissed by military top brass.

A second investigation, being undertaken by military police, is due to report back in the next few weeks.

- Herald on Sunday

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