|James Blount / Blunt|
Kosovo, June 1999. Serbia has withdrawn from the campaign. Hundreds of thousands of refugees wait over the border to return to their homes. A column of 30,000 Nato troops is advancing towards Pristina airfield – a crucial strategic position.
Unexpectedly, the Russian forces, reach the airfield first; Russia, Serbia's patron, is hoping to stake a claim in the occupation. The soldiers are pointing their weapons at the incoming Allied troops. "Destroy!" orders the US general over the radio – instructions from the very top. World War Three is on the cards. Enter crooner James Blunt. Crisis averted.
Blunt was then 25, a captain in the Life Guards and the lead officer at the front of the Nato column.
The Life Guards are the senior regiment of the British Army, dating to the Restoration of King Charles II after the Puritan interlude. As the original element of the Household Cavalry, they are the personal bodyguards of the monarch. Their colonel is the Silver Stick-in-Waiting. (Or something like that. This is all very Lewis Carrollish to me.)
He risked a court martial by refusing to obey those orders from General Wesley Clark to attack the Russian forces.
In a BBC radio interview last night, Blunt said: "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," he said. "Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as 'destroy' came down the radio. We had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively ... and we'd been told to reach the airfield and take a hold of it. That's why we were querying our instruction." The end result was a victory for British common sense. "Fortunately," Blunt recalled, "up on the radio came General Sir Mike Jackson [commander of the British forces], whose words were, 'I'm not going to have my soldiers start World War Three.' He told us, 'Why don't we encircle the airfield instead?' And after a couple of days the Russians there said, 'Hang on, we have no food and no water. Can we share the airfield with you?'"
From The Telegraph in 2005:
Blunt, of course, is by no means the only current exponent of Posh Rock. Dido went to Westminster. Radiohead were formed at Abingdon. Coldplay's Chris Martin went to Sherborne. Even so, the music industry still insists on the pretence of proletarianism. A concerted attempt is being made to downplay the whole Harrow-Sandhurst-Life Guards aspect of Blunt's life. His Army career is portrayed almost as an accident, into which he stumbled. In the words of his website biography, "One day he was sleeping off a hangover at the back of a lecture hall and the next thing he knew he was in Kosovo with a gun and a guitar strapped to the side of a tank, wondering who he could possibly sleep with to get out of this war."
In fact, soldiering is in his blood. The Blunts have been a military family for more than 1,000 years, ever since their Danish ancestors arrived in England in the 10th century.
The Blounts are not Norman arrivistes.