Currently making a star appearance in panto Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at South London's New Wimbledon Theatre, Ross Kemp must be thanking his lucky stars he is there at all. In a new documentary to be shown later this month the former EastEnders actor is seen narrowly avoiding death as he comes under attack from the Taliban in Afghanistan. The gutsy TV hardman risked his life to travel with the 1st Battallion Royal Anglian Regiment to the country where he experienced frontline action.
The five-part series Ross Kemp In Afghanistan, which begins on Sky One on January 21, also shows the actor dealing with sand storms and temperatures of over 50 degrees centigrade. The former soap actor, who is establishing a new role for himself as a documentary presenter, trained with squaddies for six weeks before flying out to the war zone.
Speaking of the moment he and the soldiers of B Company were caught in a grenade and machine-gun ambush, he revealed: "We were pinned down by enemy fire in open ground; bullets fizzed by inches from our heads, hitting the ground either side of us. It was the most frightening experience of my life. I've never hugged the ground as tightly as I did when that happened. It's definitely the closest I have ever come to dying. I was so scared."
The experience has apparently given the small screen star a new respect for British soldiers, leading him to call for better pay and improved barrack conditions for them. On his return he made an emotional visit to parents who had lost their sons in action. "My heart goes out to all of them," says the 43-year-old. "I'm not ashamed to say I bawled my eyes out."