Sussex soldier killed by friendly fire

A solider with the '˜heart of a lion' who served in Afghanistan in 2013 was killed by friendly fire.

Lance Corporal James Brynin of the Intelligence Corps was killed in action in Helmand province, Afghanistan, ENGSUS00320131017090808
Lance Corporal James Brynin of the Intelligence Corps was killed in action in Helmand province, Afghanistan, ENGSUS00320131017090808

Lance Corporal James Brynin, of Spiro Close, Pulborough, an Intelligence Corps soldier attached to 14th Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare), was deployed to Helmand in August 2013.

The 22-year-old soldier was shot during an operation on October 15, 2013, in the area of Kakaran, north east of Lashkar Gah.

Major Thomas Armitage, who was coordinating the operation, said it came as a ‘complete surprise’ when he found out L/Cpl Brynin died as a result of friendly fire.

“I’m absolutely clear we were under fire from the enemy,” he said.

“It was my very strong view that it [the attack] was coming from an area to the south or south east.”

Officials discovered the shot which killed L/Cpl Brynin came from another unit in January 2014.

An inquest into his death began today (March 10) at Edes House in Chichester.

His father, Efram Brynin said James, a former Steyning Grammar School pupil, was a quick learner and ‘extremely alert’.

He said his son had a ‘passion’ for sport and an ambition to join the army.

“It seems unfair to us that James could be taken from us in this way,” he said.

“He would never approach anything in a half-hearted way. James was recognised for his bravery on the day he died. As a family we are very grateful for that.”

Following his death, L/Cpl Brynin’s family said he had the ‘heart of a lion’ and would never be forgotten.

Mr Brynin criticised the Ministry of Defence for the way it handled the investigation into James’ death.

“The bureaucracy of the MOD is extremely hard to deal with,” he told the inquest.

“We trusted him to the army and one of their soldiers killed him. It is bad enough to lose a child. It is incredibly difficult to lose your child at the hands of one of his colleagues.”

L/Cpl Brynin was an intelligence analyst working for Light Electronic Warfare Team (LEWT) within the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) of 7th Armoured Brigade.

He was part of an operation which deployed from Camp Bastion in the early hours of October 15.

The section entered a compound as part of a mission to gain intelligence on reports Taliban insurgents were in possession of a rocket – an imminent threat to the Afghan population and the International Security Assistance Force.

Major Armitage, of the Household Calvary, said the section came under fire after it left a compound, where the troops had been gathering intelligence.

The company was following a line of trees, moving through a ditch along a field boundary in a bid to move north.

“If we are under fire we would return fire and take cover,” said Major Armitage.

“I would have expected them to take cover somewhere along that tree line.”

Major Armitage told the inquest he thought he had made it clear to the other sections in the area about the direction the section was travelling.

However he heard a call from Corporal Maloney over the radio saying ‘man down’.

He told the inquest he alerted everyone involved that there had been a casualty and had relied on medics to attend to L/Cpl Brynin.

“It is my job to keep everyone on track,” he added. “I knew people were coming to assist with the situation. I was confident they were able to manage that.”

The inquest heard the fatal shot came from Lance Corporal of Horse (LCoH) Kelly, who is set to give evidence to the inquest next week.

Major Armitage said: “Unfortunately I didn’t really have a chance to get to know him [L/Cpl Brynin]. I operated on the ground with him a little bit.

“From what I can gather and talking to people afterwards, he certainly played a key part in terms of what he did in the compound and the advice and support he provided within the LEWT was first rate.”

Counsel for the family questioned Major Armitage over the safety measures and procedures which would have been considered during the operation, including positive identification, self defence and rules of engagement, communication and the chain of command.

Captain Daniel Wall, an infantry-trained soldier in the intelligence unit, told senior commanders he thought it was ‘wrong’ for the operation to be conducted in this way.

He said the threat from the enemy could have been dealt with using other means which would have presented ‘less risk’ than having boots on the ground.

“When you present intelligence information to the command it is entirely their decision how to prosecute or act.

“The army is not a democracy and it is completely within the rights of the command,” he told the inquest.

The hearing into the death of L/Cpl Brynin’s continues.

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