RAF sergeant cradled exhausted Afghan mother’s newborn baby on one of Britain’s last rescue flights


An airman manning one of the last RAF rescue flights to leave Kabul has been lauded as a ‘hero’ after pictures emerged of him cradling the baby of an Afghan refugee too exhausted to hold her. 

Sergeant Andy Livingstone, a 31-year-old Scotsman, scooped the baby up and held her in a gentle, protective embrace for almost two hours after noticing she had been dropped by her barely conscious mother.

The married father-of-two is an RAF loadmaster, and was responsible for loading refugees and equipment onto the last-gasp mercy flight which took off from Kabul just hours after an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed over 180 people outside the airport.

‘I just did what anyone else would have done. I’ve got two little girls myself and you just want to help,’ the sergeant said. 

Sergeant Andy Livingstone, a 31-year-old Scotsman, scooped the baby up and held her in a gentle, protective embrace for almost two hours after noticing she had been dropped by her barely conscious mother

Sgt Livingstone's RAF flight was carrying 153 Afghan refugees who had managed to gain access to the runway at Hamid Karzai International airport but were barely able to stand after days of clamouring at the airport gates with little in the way of supplies

Sgt Livingstone’s RAF flight was carrying 153 Afghan refugees who had managed to gain access to the runway at Hamid Karzai International airport but were barely able to stand after days of clamouring at the airport gates with little in the way of supplies

Sgt Livingstone’s RAF flight was carrying 153 Afghan refugees who had managed to gain access to the runway at Hamid Karzai International airport but were barely able to stand after days of clamouring at the airport gates with little in the way of supplies.

The sergeant said he first noticed the baby’s mother was having trouble shortly after they took off. 

‘We got everyone on and this family caught my eye, a mum and dad, three sisters and a brother.

‘One of the sisters was in the early stages of shock or exhaustion, so without any medics there we just cracked on giving her food and I was dealing with dad, ensuring he was able to give food and water to his family.

‘A little little bit later on I see something in the corner of my eye falling over on to the floor. I saw the mum scrambling and realised a baby has rolled off her lap.

‘She was just so exhausted, she couldn’t keep her eyes open couldn’t keep her arms up.

‘I picked up this baby that was absolutely nothing and you think how exhausted must this poor woman be that she can’t bear that weight.’

Prior to the final rescue flight in which he looked after the baby, Sgt Livingstone was involved in three other flights - two more refugee evacuations and a further repatriation flight for British troops returning from Kabul. In total, the RAF loadmaster oversaw the rescue of 353 Afghans and 200 British armed forces personnel

Prior to the final rescue flight in which he looked after the baby, Sgt Livingstone was involved in three other flights – two more refugee evacuations and a further repatriation flight for British troops returning from Kabul. In total, the RAF loadmaster oversaw the rescue of 353 Afghans and 200 British armed forces personnel

The flight was one of the last RAF evacuation transports out of the Afghan capital after a ISIS-K suicide bomber killed 180 people outside the airport gates hours earlier

Sgt Livingstone quickly took the baby and strapped her to her mother’s body using the aircraft’s seat belts, but the barely conscious woman simply could not hold the weight of the infant. 

‘I gave her the baby back, asked a few questions, strapped the baby in, best as I could using seat belts just to hold it in,’ said Sgt Livingstone.

‘Within minutes of that it was the same again. I see the same thing happening.

‘So I went over and said you really need to sleep – please let me take this baby off you for half an hour just so you can shut your eyes – anything that will make you feel better.’

The Afghan lady, who did not speak English, was unable to understand what the sergeant had said, but seemed to implicitly comprehend that he would take care of the baby as she teetered on the verge of an exhausted slumber. 

Sgt Livingstone recounted the incredibly powerful interaction: ‘I cannot say there was gratitude, she was a woman who had seen her family go through too much, looking at me as if to say ‘is it okay? Can I go to sleep now? Is my baby going to be okay with you?’

‘I will never forget it. I don’t think I can describe it in a way that makes sense.’

‘Everything that you do there’s a little bit of mistrust because they have no idea what was going on. 

Sgt Livingstone placed a pair of ear defenders on the little girl to ensure she was able to sleep soundly during the two hour journey to Dubai.

He went on to describe the incredible efforts of the Afghan refugees who were able to stay awake and who were in better shape to make the flight a memorable one for the dozens of children aboard. 

‘All the parents had tried to make it like we would as parents, more exciting or less scary for the kids.

‘It was nans handing out sweeties and chewing gum. It was dads doing the dad thing making sure the kids were sitting down and mums just trying their very, very best to look after their kids.

‘These are people who have got one bag for a family or one backpack for five of them. All they need is just a little bit of humanity.’

Prior to the final rescue flight in which he looked after the baby, Sgt Livingstone was involved in three other flights – two more refugee evacuations and a further repatriation flight for British troops returning from Kabul. 

In total, the RAF loadmaster oversaw the rescue of 353 Afghans and 200 British armed forces personnel.

Boris Johnson insisted UK forces can be 'proud' of their 'achievements' in Afghanistan (pictured: a British serviceman gives a bottle of water to a young Afghan refugee)

Boris Johnson insisted UK forces can be ‘proud’ of their ‘achievements’ in Afghanistan (pictured: a British serviceman gives a bottle of water to a young Afghan refugee)

Sgt Livingstone said the RAF was flying out 'everyone from two-week-old babies to grandmothers in wheelchairs, people on stretchers, people with cuts round their heads and up their arms'

Sgt Livingstone said the RAF was flying out ‘everyone from two-week-old babies to grandmothers in wheelchairs, people on stretchers, people with cuts round their heads and up their arms’

He said the RAF was flying out ‘everyone from two-week-old babies to grandmothers in wheelchairs, people on stretchers, people with cuts round their heads and up their arms’ after the suicide blast at Kabul airport, and explained his admiration and pride in taking part in such a heroic effort.

‘Bringing the Afghan nationals back was the most rewarding thing I have done. 

‘You know that as soon as those wheels are off the ground you are making a difference. 

‘People are going from hell to whatever else and you know it’s never going to be that bad.’

Boris Johnson insisted this weekend that UK forces can be ‘proud’ of their ‘achievements’ in Afghanistan, while opposition leader Keir Starmer praised the ‘remarkable’ evacuation efforts of British troops and urged ministers to waive the 30-day deployment threshold so that their contribution can be ‘recognised’ with medals.     

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