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SAS hero wasn't prepared for 'bonfire of human bodies' as 'river ran red' on harrowing mission

Poppy Bilderbeck

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SAS hero wasn't prepared for 'bonfire of human bodies' as 'river ran red' on harrowing mission

A former SAS solider has opened up about the horrific sights he saw during the Bosnian war.

Mark 'Billy' Billingham - best known for his role on SAS: Who Dares Wins - has served 27 years in the military and has subsequently been subject to many extreme, dangerous and harrowing situations.

The decorated soldier has since spoken out about some of the most awful sights he has seen in his career - pinpointing his time during a surveillance mission in the early 1990s during the Bosnian war.

Warning: Strong language and graphic descriptions of violence.

In an interview with Combat Story, Billingham recalled the first time he went to Bosnia, in the early days of the war.

Billingham was told he would be going away for 10 days, but ended up returning four to five months later.

He said: "The thing that got me about Bosnia, bearing in mind that it's an an hour-and-a-half, two hours from the UK, it's Europe basically, and what really got me [...]

"I'd only been there a couple of weeks, there were bodies on the road, animals still in the street, buildings on fire. It was a war zone.

"[...] There were tanks on fire and gun battles all around [...] you're getting bombed [...] you're getting shot at."

Billingham was told he'd be going to Bosnia for 10 days but returned four to five months later. Credit: @billingham22b/ Instagram
Billingham was told he'd be going to Bosnia for 10 days but returned four to five months later. Credit: @billingham22b/ Instagram

However, it was one day in particular which has haunted Billingham. He said: "We were out doing a surveillance task, going down to what would have been a beautiful village, down through a mountain pathway, overlooking the river, and there's a village. [...] And it was under attack.

"[...] It was Arkan's tigers (the Serb Volunteer Guard) doing the ethnic cleansing. They were going through this village."

Billingham and the rest of his surveillance crew came back to the village a few days later to find 'bodies everywhere,' the 'river red with blood'.

"I've never seen anything like it. It was like a film set. [...] The smell of death was unbelievable," he recalled.

Billingham saw a 'bonfire' of bodies during his time in Bosnia. Credit: @billingham22b/ Instagram
Billingham saw a 'bonfire' of bodies during his time in Bosnia. Credit: @billingham22b/ Instagram

The former soldier continued: "Long story short, in amongst the orchard, was just a massive - it looked like they'd built a bonfire and someone had put a blue tarpaulin over it."

Billingham immediately knew what the 'bonfire' was.

"I could smell it and you could see the blood in the grass all flattened down. It was bodies. It was from the village that had just been cleansed."

He explained how he saw not just soldiers, but children and old people in the pile of bodies.

There were children in amongst the bonfire of bodies according to Billingham. Credit: @billingham22b/ Instagram
There were children in amongst the bonfire of bodies according to Billingham. Credit: @billingham22b/ Instagram

The soldier explained how it made him think of the 'days of Hitler'.

"The other thing which struck me as a soldier in the SAS, is this is not soldiers doing this," he added.

Billingham resolved that the experience was a 'real eye-opener' to him.

He said: "It was one of those moments in time where I couldn't get my head round it. I could not understand, I didn't get this. This is not war. This is so wrong. [...] I remember thinking how can this happen in this modern day?"

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence, contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677 

Featured Image Credit: Instagram/@billingham22b

Topics: SAS: Who Dares Wins, World News

Poppy Bilderbeck
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