James Blunt ‘prevented World War 3’ after order to attack Russians while in Army

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James is a guest on Sunday Brunch at 9:30am on Channel 4. The programme, hosted by Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer, is a light Sunday chat show with guests, cookery and music. James will be among a star-studded lineup that includes Matt Goss, Rachel Riley, Guy Garvey, Jools Holland, and Dougray Scott.

The singer is promoting his greatest hits album ‘The Stars Beneath My Feet’, which was released on Friday.

The 30-song collection spans James’ 17-year career and includes hits like ‘You’re Beautiful’ and ‘Cold’.

The album also features four new songs, as well as four exclusive live performances from around the world, including at Glastonbury Festival.

Before James found international success with the release of his debut album ‘Back to Bedlam’ in 2004, he was a reconnaissance officer in the Life Guards regiment of the British Army.

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He served under NATO during the 1999 Kosovo War.

In an interview in 2010, the singer revealed he was once ordered to seize an airfield while in Kosovo, but the Russians had got there first.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “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.”

The confusion surrounding the taking of Pristina airfield was widely reported at the time, while it has also since been written about in political memoirs.

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James, who was leading a column of 30,000 NATO troops with his unit, told John Pienaar it was a “mad situation”.

He added: “We had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively which was… and you know 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.

“And the practical consequences of that political decision would be aggression against the Russians.”

When James was asked if following the order would have risked World War 3 James replied: “Absolutely. And that’s why we were querying our instruction from an American general.

“Fortunately up on the radio came General Mike Jackson whose exact words at the time were, ‘I’m not going to have my soldiers responsible for starting World War 3’ and told us why don’t we sugar off down the road, you know, 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?’”

James said that if General Jackson had not blocked the order, he would still have declined to follow it even at risk of court martial.

He left the Army three years later to pursue a career in music, and went on to score a worldwide hit with ‘You’re Beautiful’.

Watch Sunday Brunch at 9:30am on Channel 4.

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