SOFREP was introduced to Jamie Read and James Hughes in Syria this November where they were volunteering to serve with the YPG, the Kurdish People’s Protection units that are at war against ISIS.  Both men appeared to have their heads and hearts in the right place.  Both were British Infantry veterans, Jamie having served in the Dukes of Lancaster Regiment and James previously served in the Mercian Regiment.  While discussing the war, both men asked SOFREP to keep their names and details out of the press, which was readily agreed to.

Unfortunately, someone else could not promise them the same.  Several days later I was in a refugee camp in Dohuk.  While sitting in a tent watching Arabic television news, pictures of Jamie and James flashed across the television screen, the newscaster dubbing them “mercenaries.”  However, the two Brits were unpaid volunteers who believed in the cause and were nothing so crass as mercenaries.

After the first stories leaked out in mid-November, a media circus has erupted in the UK about what James and Jamie did, or didn’t, do.  The most egregious hit piece was done by the Daily Mail, which “exposed” their supposed lies and wrong doings.

SOFREP has been in direct contact with the British veterans and many other foreign fighters in North Syria to get the facts.

Some ISIS positions photographed by Jamie and James.
Some ISIS positions photographed by Jamie and James.

Hit Piece

1. The Daily Mail claims that Jamie and James went to Syria to make money.  Jamie told SOFREP, “As you know, anyone who goes over there to make money is kidding themselves.” James and Jamie were unpaid volunteers offering their help to the Kurds free of charge.  They really went to Syria for two purposes: to fight ISIS, and to document the war via photography and video. While the Daily Mail claims that they wanted to sell the footage to UK media outlets, James and Jamie have not done this and have readily offered the photographs used in this story without asking for compensation.

2. Contrary to the Daily Mail’s story, James and Jamie have not exaggerated their combat experiences in Syria.  They have made no claims of having been in heavy contacts with ISIS, although they did experience a few shots fired in anger.  The two Brits, along with other foreign volunteers, did patrol through a village in enemy territory, an experience they documented with GoPro cameras  and which was shown to SOFREP for verification.  Although the area they were in was relatively safe, Jamie and others have talked about going out to man ambush lines in the dead of night in bad guy country.  “Of course I was scared,” Jamie recounted.

3. The Daily Mail says that contrary to James and Jamie’s claims about the danger of being kidnapped in Syria, that there was little or no actual threat of being captured by ISIS.  Current events and anecdotal evidence gathered by this author in Syria tell a different story.  One foreign volunteer SOFREP interviewed was nearly kidnapped while trying to cross the border from Turkey into Syria.  Two Kurdish journalists were kidnapped in Syria several days ago.  There were repeated warnings about both IEDs and assassinations inside friendly controlled areas as the enemy has began a terrorist campaign in the YPG’s rear areas.  SOFREP observed the aftermath of an ISIS suicide bomber attack on a YPG base in the same region in which James and Jamie were stationed.

4. The Sun reported that James and Jamie were fighting in Kobani.  Although both men have officially refuted this account, the Daily Mail reported it again knowing it was false as a way to further discredit them.  The Sun says the account of fighting in Kobani was given to them directly by the two Brits, and there is an answer to this odd inconsistency.  Another foreign volunteer witnessed a Kurd of British extraction calling the UK press and pretending to be Jamie.