And Finally

James Blunt stopped World War III

By | Published on Monday 15 November 2010

It’s convenient for James Blunt that whenever he releases a new album of warbles in early November, “just in time for Christmas”, it coincides with Remembrance Day, cue lots of “I used to a soldier, don’t you know” interviews.

And so, with new long player ‘Some Kind Of Trouble’ out in the shops, Blunt appeared on a 5Live programme this weekend discussing his time fighting in the 1999 Kosovo War, enabling the BBC news website to run a story with the fabulous headline, “Blunt prevented World War III”.

The story related to an incident where Blunt held back from following the instructions of an American General to kick 200 or so Russian soldiers off an airfield in the Kosovan capital of Pristina. Not single handedly, he had 30,000 NATO troops at his disposal. But still, he reckoned kicking off a barney with the Russians wasn’t a good plan.

He told the BBC programme: “I was given the direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there. I was the lead officer with my troop of men behind us … the soldiers directly behind me were from the Parachute Regiment, so they’re obviously game for the fight. The direct command [that] came in from General Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as ‘destroy’ came down the radio”.

He continued: “We had two hundred Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively, [but] we’d been told to reach the airfield and take a hold of it. And if we had a foothold there then it would make life much easier for the NATO forces in Pristina. So there was a political reason to take hold of this. But the practical consequences of that political reason would be then aggression against the Russians”.

Blunt was already exercising caution over the ordered assault on the Russians when senior British soldier General Mike Jackson stepped in to support him, giving us the World War III line. He radioed in the message: “I’m not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War III”. The Blunt/Jackson strategy prevailed, and eventually the by-then-surrounded Russian soldiers suggested they collaborate with NATO in securing the air field.

We all mock Blunt a bit, but clearly he’s a capable guy with lots of great army stories. I can’t be the only person who wishes he’d release an album of them rather than insisting on singing his songs.