US warplanes hit British tank convoy in Iraq, inquest told
By Emma Henry and agencies
A teenage soldier awarded the highest British honour for gallantry has described the terrifying moment when his tank convoy came under fire from AMERICAN planes in Iraq.
L/Cpl Matty Hull died in March 2003. Despite being friendly, him and his convoy were attacked by the Americans.
George Cross holder L/Cpl Chris Finney, 19, said he had been driving the lead Scimitar tank in a convoy of four away from Basra in southern Iraq on a reconnaissance mission, when the two A-10 tankbuster planes struck on March 28, 2003.
He told the Oxford inquest into colleague L/Cpl of Horse Matty Hull's death that he did not know at the time these were American planes until he saw one lining up to fire for a second time.
L/Cpl Hull's widow listened in tears as L/Cpl Finney said said: "At first there were sparks everywhere and the vehicles stopped, they obviously had been stopped by something. I couldn't actually see what had hit us or where from.
He said he reversed back on the instructions of the commander and into the tank carrying L/Cpl Hull, 25, of Windsor, Berkshire.
He said as he jumped out of his tank, he tried to grab his rifle but a fire inside the vehicle forced him back. He said he realised that there were still people inside as he took cover. He said: "I was looking around me and couldn't really see. I then looked back at my vehicle to see my gunner trying to get out."
Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said the gunner was suffering from a large leg wound. L/Cpl Finney, then a trooper with just one year's experience in the army, pulled him out of the burning vehicle and began to give him medical treatment.
YEEEEEEEE HAAAAAAAAA, COWBOY! WOOO! American military in Iraq: Absolutely useless. Brainded morons. Nowhere near as good as the British. If there's one brain cell to share around them all it would be a miracle. The light is on but methinks it's dim.
As he did so, he was aware that a type of smoke used by coalition forces to indicate a friendly fire incident had been released by one of the tanks in the convoy.
He said: "From where I was I wasn't aware that it was a plane or anything like that.
All I knew was our vehicles had been hit and the smoke had been deployed.
"I was still with my gunner on the floor at this point and the plane came back into view to start its second run."
The inquest heard that he himself had been hit in the arm, but he was only aware of his arm shaking and did not realise he was injured until later.
He told Mr Walker that he went back to L/Cpl Hull's tank to try to save whoever was inside, but fierce flames forced him back.
Mr Walker told him: "I should just like to say, Mr Finney, that you are an extremely brave man and are to be commended for what you did, because it seems to me that had you not taken the steps that you did to move your gunner away from this incident then his injuries may well have been significantly more than they were."
L/Cpl Hull, from Princes William and Harry's Blues and Royals, the Household Cavalry Regiment, died at the scene and his remains were left in the tank until they could safely be recovered the next day.