Hero had ‘cheated death’ in friendly fire attack

TRAGIC soldier Jonathan Woodgate said he had “cheated death” after surviving an American “friendly fire” attack in Iraq.

Lance Corporal of Horse Woodgate walked away from the 2003 incident which claimed the life of his colleague Matty Hull.

L/Cpl Woodgate had received holes in his bullet-proof vest, but was remarkably left otherwise unscathed.

The friendly fire incident caused outrage in 2007 when dramatic video footage of it was obtained by The Sun newspaper. The Ministry of Defence initially told L/Cpl Hull’s family the recording did not exist.

The film, which showed the horrified reaction of the US pilots as they realised their error, was later shown at his inquest after American authorities relented in the face of worldwide media coverage, prompted by the video’s publication on the newspaper’s website.

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On Friday, L/Cpl Woodgate - who gave evidence at L/Cpl Hull’s inquest - was killed near Sangin, Helmand province, while carrying out what was due to be his last patrol of his current tour.

The former Great Cornard Upper School pupil was in the same Scimitar armoured vehicle as L/Cpl Hull when it came under attack from American A-10 Thunderbolt jets in March 2003.

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He said at the subsequent inquest that he remembered seeing the ground “erupt”.

One soldier died and four others were badly wounded but he bravely pulled them free of their burning vehicles and desperately tried to alert the Americans they were attacking their own allies.

He said afterwards: “Part of me thinks that I have already cheated death and I may be tempting fate by staying out here.”

L/Cpl Woodgate also spoke movingly of his colleague L/Cpl Matty Hull who was killed in the incident. He said: “I can’t stop thinking how he died - in a way it is unfair that he had to go and I got out.”

The controversial cockpit recording exposed a catalogue of errors which led to the friendly fire incident. In it, one pilot was heard to say “We’re in jail dude” after realising the mistake.

“God dammit,” the other replied while weeping.

In tributes to L/Cpl Woodgate, colleagues recalled him telling them about the attack and other near misses.

L/Cpl Robert Parry said: “His vehicle drove over a mine and he managed to have a laugh about it.

“He told me about the incident in Iraq and the A-10 and I remember thinking, how does someone so young have all this happen to them, and yet remain so calm and strong? But that was Woody - he didn’t let anything get him down.”

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