Soldier buys Somerset house for fleeing Afghan colleague

James Dieterle on deployment in Afghanistan in his uniform and wearing sunglasses
Image caption,James Dieterle was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010

A soldier says he bought a house to help resettle his fleeing Afghan friend to pay him back for his support.

Deployed to Afghanistan, British soldier James Dieterle worked as a translator to Afghan Forces in 2010.

In 2021, Mr Dieterle helped his former colleague’s evacuation out of the country to Somerset, following the dramatic and rapid fall of the Afghan government.

He said: “He was sending me messages to say, ‘hey, I really need help’.”

Deployed to Afghanistan as part of the British Army’s Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corp (REME), Mr Dieterle said he first formed a friendship with the Afghan man while working as his translator.

“His English was, at that time, pretty much non-existent but any time that we had to deal with anything on the ground, I would translate between him and our UK troops.

“Or, if there was any paperwork that needed translating, I would translate the paperwork – which was all in Farsi – and I would translate it back to English.”

James Dieterle on deployment in his uniform
Image caption,Mr Dieterle bought a property in Somerset to house his former colleague and friend

Mr Dieterle’s deployment eventually ended, and it wasn’t until late 2020 into early 2021 that his friend got in touch with him again.

“We realised things had started to go wrong in Afghanistan again,” said Mr Dieterle.

“We heard all the troops were pulling out and then, of course, we all know that the country fell within a matter of days.”

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) was launched in April 2021 by the UK government, with local authorities later that year being called upon to expand their support to Afghan personnel who had worked alongside the British military as interpreters and translators, as well as at-risk citizens.

With his friend begging for help, Mr Dieterle said he made it his mission to do all he could, even getting in touch with other troops he had previously worked with.

Mr Dieterle said he found out through someone he had worked with in the special forces that the Parachute Regiment were “going to be flown out”.

He was then told to get his friend to the Baron Hotel near Kabul Airport where his documents could be processed.

“Then I got a message with a screenshot with his location at Heathrow Airport,” he said.

On his friend’s arrival to the UK, Mr Dieterle said he knew he really wanted to help further.

“I had this money in a bank account and I thought, if we can’t get him accommodation, I’ll see if I can buy a house.”

James Dieterle in his army uniform wearing sunglasses and a helmet
Image caption,Mr Dieterle said his friend had to flee Afghanistan “through no fault of his own”

Mr Dieterle, who said he had been supported by Somerset Council, said: “It took a while, but I found a property.”

His friend is now settled in the county along with his family, renting the home Mr Dieterle bought.

“I never for once believed when I first met him in 2010, this is where we’d be now,” said Mr Dieterle.

“I imagine there are not many people around the country that have gone as far as I did with investing the time and the money into actually housing refugees.

“We’ve really set him up in a position where through no fault of his own, he’s had to leave his country because of the support he showed us [British forces] and I think it’s absolutely right that we as a country give him the support back,” he added.

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