SAS raid in Afghanistan eerily similar to incident during WWI

The revelations in Nicky Hager's new book Hit & Run that Kiwi SAS troops conducted a revenge attack on a village in Afghanistan have shocked many New Zealanders.

Co-written by veteran war correspondent Jon Stephenson, the book details an alleged bloody raid following the death of a Kiwi soldier from a roadside bomb.

Hager and Stephenson claim the New Zealanders attacked a village where they suspected the roadside bomb maker lived, destroying several homes and killing six locals.

The incident is eerily similar to one that took place almost a century ago in Palestine during World War I.

New Zealand mounted troops, the SAS of their day, conducted a revenge attack on the village of Surafend in 1918 after a Kiwi soldier was killed, allegedly by a local villager.

Historian Terry Kinloch researched the incident for his book Devils on Horses, which details the New Zealand Mounteds' campaign against Turkish forces in the Middle East.

In December 1918, Kiwi trooper Leslie Lowry was shot dead by a thief outside his tent at the New Zealander's camp site near Richon le Zion.

A trail of footprints reportedly led to the nearby village of Surafend and New Zealand troops also suspected the villagers there of digging up the graves of dead Kiwi soldiers and stealing from their corpses.

The New Zealanders intended to make an 'example' of the villagers and enlisted the help of some of their Australian comrades in the Light Horse Brigade.

On the night of December 10, dozens of Anzac soldiers armed with pick handles, bayonets and iron rods descended on the village of Surafend and demanded Leslie Lowry's murderer be handed over to them.

When the villagers did not comply, the Anzacs destroyed several homes and killed up to 40 male inhabitants.

The incident was one of most controversial involving New Zealanders during World War I and brought a great deal of shame to the famous Anzac Mounted Division, which was one of the most elite fighting units in the British army.

It chillingly mirrors the events in Hager's new book - claims that Kiwis soldiers sought out their own brand of justice and retribution following the death of one of their own.

But instead of using armoured cars and Apache helicopters the Kiwis soldiers in 1918 rode in on horseback.

Troopers from the Mounted Anzac Division on the charge in Palestine.
Troopers from the Anzac Mounted Division on the charge in Palestine. (NZ History)

Both incidents perhaps sum up the decisions that are sometimes made in the crucible of war, when men trained to kill do just that, but do so when the lines between right and wrong are blurred and not so clear-cut.