A ROYAL Marine from Taunton who was the first member of our armed forces to be convicted of murder on the battlefield has opened up about the events that led to him killing an injured Taliban insurgent in 2011.

Sgt Al Blackman - known as Marine A during his trial - later had the charge downgraded to manslaughter.

Somerset County Gazette:

Al Blackman during his time with the Royal Marines

He was originally sentenced to a minimum of ten years in prison in December 2013 by a court martial, which was later reduced on appeal to eight years.

He was freed in April 2017 and a court later reduced the charge to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibilty.

But his dishonourable discharge from the Royal Marines remained in place.

Pressure had been put on the authorities to gain his release from jail by his wife, Claire, hunrdeds of supporters from the Armed forces and the public, including author Frederick Forsyth.

Somerset County Gazette:

Al Blackman's wife, Claire, who fought tirelessly for his release

Sgt Blackman, 44, has just brough out a book recounting his story - Marine A: The truth about the murder conviction - has been serialised in the Daily Mail.

He tells how he killed the fatally wounded Taliban fighter in Helmand province, Afghanistan, due to the stress of the conflict.

He has spoken of his concern about troops’ lack of mental preparation before being deployed to war zones. He is now working with the Royal Marines to help avoid similar situations in the future.

He has taken full resonsibility for his actions, which he admits were wrong, but says troops should be given adequate training to deal with mental challenges in the heat of war.

He told the Guardian: "Understanding why I did it is something I still struggle with."

He added: "I’m not pointing any fingers of blame at anybody. My situation was my situation. My actions were my actions.

“It would be easy to criticise [his superiors]. I don’t know what jobs they had. No one is sitting there twiddling their thumbs.

"For me to say they did a bad job and let me down is unfair. They had busy jobs. There was a lot going on in Afghanistan.”

Sgt Blackman said he did not realise he was ill adding: "I can see that I didn’t look after my mental health as well as I could have.

"I wasn’t aware I was suffering. I guess many people don’t. We don’t see the signs in ourselves. Everyone has a breaking point.”

The former Commando appeared on Good Morning Britain this morning (Thursday), when he said: "It's been one of the hardest things for me to understand what I was thinking and why I did it."