Former Soldier 'Can't Atone' For Raid Which Killed Five Children

'When you realise you've killed children, devastating doesn't even begin to describe it.'

23/05/2016 9:59 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST

A former Australian commando at the centre of one of the country's most controversial military cases has spoken for the first time about a raid in which five Afghan children were killed.

The former lance corporal, known as Dave, and another soldier were charged with manslaughter over the 2009 deaths of the children during a raid of a family compound.

The manslaughter charges were dropped in 2011.

Now angered that the Australian Defence Force has not exonerated him, Dave spoke for the first time to the ABC's Australian Story about the 2009 raid.

"From the moment I realised there were dead children, I was horrified, numb, just struggling to grasp," Dave told the programme, which will air the first of the two part series at 8pm on Monday night.

"When you realise you've killed children, devastating doesn't even begin to describe it, and I feel like I can't fix it and I can't atone for it. I can't do anything to undo the damage that was done."

On February 12, 2009, members of the Afghan National Army personnel, Afghan interpreters and the Australian were targeting a Taliban leader when they headed towards Sorkh Morghab, a small village in Uruzgan Province.

They came under fire from a man hiding in a room and Dave was instructed by a sergeant to throw a grenade.

Dave told the ABC that after the explosion there was a brief pause before the gunfire continued "at a rapid and sustained rate, hence us believing that there was more than one insurgent in that room".

"It was coming out through the windows and it was coming out through the walls, around eight or 10 centimetres from my head and chest," he said.

Dave was instructed to throw a second grenade, after which the gunfire stopped.

Only after the soldiers entered the room did they realise there were women and children in the room.

The manslaughter case rocked the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and was subject of a sustained public outcry amid accusations of civilian ignorance war conditions.

Documents released by the defence department reportedly showed unusual pressures faced by the military prosector, Brigadier Lyn McDade, at the time.

The ABC reports a vilification campaign was mounted against McDade, who had laid the charges.

The case against the men was dismissed before a court martial.

But Dave and other members of the regiment are angry the ADF has not formally exonerated him or the other soldier.

Debate about the case was reignited last week with the release of a ministerial memorandum obtained by Australian Story under Freedom of Information legislation.

The program airs on Monday night and on May 30.

More On This Topic