RAF hero pictured comforting baby: 'I’ll never forget harrowing Afghanistan evacuation'

9 September 2021, 17:33

By Will Taylor

The RAF sergeant who was photographed comforting an Afghan baby has told LBC he will never forget the evacuation mission.

Kabul airport was the scene of chaos and tragedy as people tried to flee the new Taliban regime, and terrorists massacred dozens in a suicide bombing.

British forces were left picking up the pieces of the political decision to withdraw international troops and leave the Afghan government to its fate.

Among the death and desperation at the airport, one photo showed the heart-warming human element of Operation Pitting, the UK effort to fly 15,000 people out of the country.

Sergeant Andy Livingstone, a loadmaster from 70 Squadron, was photographed holding a baby as families fled on board his RAF flight.

He told LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: “It was a little girl, two weeks old. We came across her after one of the evacuation flights got off the ground in Kabul.

"These were the people that were at the back of the queue, so to say… so these were really tired people in a really low place, physically exhausted, mentally exhausted, and this family just caught my eye.”

He said he was already giving the family of six’s eldest daughter first aid because she had gone into shock.

“I noticed out the corner out my eye something drop on the floor and it was this little girl,” Sgt Livingstone said.

Nick asked: "Did you manage to get the rest of the family on board, sergeant?"

Sgt Livingstone replied: "Yes, absolutely...[the] mum, dad, their three daughters and their son."

The photo of him helping her was beamed around the world, an image which cut through the fears of Taliban repression and reprisals, and the Isis-K attack on a Kabul airport gate, which killed scores of Afghans and a number of American military personnel.

Asked about the toughest part of Operation Pitting, the loadmaster replied: “It was the human aspect - looking down the freight bay to all the passengers, especially the children.

“My first trip we had 87 children, 15 infants… and being a dad and knowing what those kids were going through, what those parents were going through as far as their anxieties and their concerns - but also looking at nanas handing out sweeties, children trying to have fun, little girls wearing their best party dresses and just mum and dads at their wits end because they don't know what they're taking their children from or to."