James Blunt (Musician)
(James Hillier Blount)
b. 22 Feb 1974 d. -
British Army 1996- October 2002
Because the British Army sponsored his university education, Blunt was obliged to serve a minimum of four years in the armed forces. Blunt trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Life Guards, a unit of the Household Cavalry, where he rose to the rank of captain. One of his first assignments was to British Army Training Unit Suffield in Alberta, Canada, where his battalion was posted for six months in 1998 to act as the opposing army in combat training exercises.
In 1999, he served as an armoured reconnaissance officer in the NATO deployment in Kosovo. Initially assigned to reconnaissance of the Macedonia-Yugoslaviaborder, Blunt and his unit worked ahead of the front lines directing forces and targeting Serb positions for the NATO bombing campaign. His unit was given the assignment of securing the Pristina International Airport in advance of the 30,000-strong peacekeeping force; the Russian army had moved in and taken control of the airport before his unit's arrival. The confusion surrounding the taking of Pristina airfield in 1999 has been written about in political memoirs, and was widely reported at the time.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live broadcast Blunt recounted the following:
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 from the Parachute Regiment, so they're obviously game for the fight.
"The direct command [that] came in from Gen Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as 'destroy' came down the radio." Asked if following the order would have risked starting World War III, Blunt, who was a 25-year-old cavalry officer at the time, replied: "Absolutely. And that's why we were querying our instruction from an American general.
"Fortunately, up on the radio came Gen Mike Jackson, whose exact words at the time were, 'I'm not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War III', and told us why don't we sugar off down the road, you know, encircle the airfield instead.
If Gen Jackson had not blocked the order from Gen Clark, who as Nato Supreme Commander Europe was his superior officer, Blunt said he would still have declined to follow it, even at the risk of a court martial.
He said: "There are things that you do along the way that you know are right, and those that you absolutely feel are wrong, that I think it's morally important to stand up against, and that sense of moral judgement is drilled into us as soldiers in the British army."
It was while on duty in Kosovo that he wrote his song "No Bravery". He also stood guard at the coffin of the Queen Mother during the days of her lying in State and was part of the funeral procession on April 9, 2002.