LONDON (AP) — Hours after a British soldier in Afghanistan told medics she was suffering from stomach pains, the Royal Artillery gunner unexpectedly gave birth to a boy — the first child ever born in combat to a member of Britain’s armed forces.

Britain’s defense ministry said Thursday the soldier told authorities she had not been aware she was pregnant and only consulted doctors on the day that she went into labor.

The soldier, who arrived in Afghanistan in March, delivered the child Tuesday at Camp Bastion, the vast desert camp in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province where Prince Harry is deployed and a Taliban attack last week killed two U.S. Marines.

“Mother and baby are both in a stable condition in the hospital and are receiving the best possible care,” the ministry said in a statement. It said a team of doctors would fly out to Afghanistan in the coming days to help the soldier and her son return safely to Britain.

The U.K. does not allow female soldiers to deploy on operation if they are pregnant. Although the soldier’s child was conceived before her tour of duty began in March, she is not likely to face censure.

Britain has previously sent female soldiers home from wars after they have fallen pregnant — including about 60 from Afghanistan, but hasn’t previously had a servicewoman go into labor in a war zone.

The soldier, a citizen of Fiji, is one of about 500 British military women serving in Afghanistan. She is also among around 2,000 Fijians who serve in the British military, even though the country became independent from Britain in 1970.

Camp Bastion, which hosts the U.S. Camp Leatherneck, is home to most of Britain’s 9,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, including Prince Harry — who arrived there earlier this month to serve as an attack helicopter gunner. Last Friday, a Taliban assault on the base ended up with two U.S. Marines killed and six American fighter jets destroyed.

Maj. Charles Heyman, a retired officer and author of “The British Army Guide,” said the unexpected birth would cause some concern at the base.

“This sort of thing makes life difficult for everyone else, but the important thing is the welfare of the female soldier. This could have gone wrong and we don’t know if the attack on Camp Bastion might have forced the birth,” said Heyman.

Heyman said it may have been “that the excitement of the tour masked the symptoms of the pregnancy.”



filed under: