The story behind the fist-bumping Norfolk airman in Afghanistan

Evacuation of Kabul Sgt Chris Hill

Sgt Chris Hall, from Belton, fist-pumps a young boy as he boards an evacuation plane at Kabul airport. - Credit: MOD

A Norfolk airman has said that his duty as a father helped him in the largest air evacuation carried out by the RAF in over 70 years.

Belton father-of-two, Sgt Chris Hall has shared his thoughts on the moment he was photographed fist-bumping an Afghan boy boarding a Royal Air Force (RAF) plane during the evacuation of Kabul in late August.

The picture was featured on the front pages of several British national newspapers and has been regarded as one of the defining images of the Afghan evacuation. 

Sgt Hall, 39, who is based in Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, with the UK Mobile Air Movements Squadron (UKMAMS), said: "There were families getting on the aircraft and some of the children hadn't seen a plane before.

"Many kids were crying at the bottom of the ramp.

"One boy was crying and refusing to get aboard.

"So I crouched down and said 'come on, mate' and gave him a fist-bump.

Most Read

"Then about eight kids behind the boy came up and they all wanted a fist-bump as well."

British troops in Kabul

Image issued by the Ministry of Defence of British troops in Kabul. - Credit: MOD

Sgt Hall reflected that his relationship with his children helped him in that moment.

"I think that's just me having kids.

"If my kids were upset, I'd give them a fist-bump and help them get it together.

"It's no different where you are or who you are."

Sgt Hall said that while his human approach has been used to illustrate the work of the RAF in the Afghanistan evacuation, many other service people were doing other things to ensure the safe passage of Afghan people and British citizens.

"People were helping old ladies carry their bags.

"Service members were assisting people with injuries or disabilities.

"Everyone was playing their part in the operation."

The mission oversaw the evacuation of more than 15,000 people and was praised by the prime minister as "the culmination of a mission unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes".

The 17-year veteran remarked on how the operation was the proudest moment of his career.

"Me and my team are proud of our achievements.

"We went out there thinking it was going to be important, but nothing on the scale it turned out to be.

"Seeing people so desperate to get out of Kabul and to be involved in the single biggest capacity airlift of any Royal Air Force plane in its history is something to be proud of.

"There were times it was worrying, but we were there to do a job and we did it."

Evacuation of Kabul

The airlift underway from Hamid Karzai International Airport. Sgt Chris Hall from Belton is part of a key team leading the evacuation. - Credit: MOD

The airman was based in Kabul for nearly three weeks before returning to his hometown for a "flying visit".

"I love coming home.

"But It's just too quick.

"I got back on Friday and picked my kids up from school.

"I spent the weekend with my family, joined in the Gorleston ParkRun and went to the beach."

Chris Hall with his sons on Gorleston beach

Sgt Chris Hall was deployed to Kabul shortly before he was supposed to be on leave. - Credit: Jess Coppins

Sgt Hall returns to RAF Brize Norton on Monday.

The airman was scheduled to be on leave for three weeks to spend time with his two sons, who are eight and 10, over the summer holidays.

However, days before he was due back in Belton, he was deployed to Kabul to participate in the evacuation.

"We knew we would have to go to Afghanistan at some point, but we didn't know when.

"And then it just happened at the point I was going to spend three weeks with my kids.

"It's been nice being home for the weekend, but I missed the summer with my family and taking my kids to the beach every day."

Chris Hall enjoying Gorleston beach with his sons before he returns to base at RAF Brize Norton.

Chris Hall enjoying Gorleston beach with his sons before he returns to base at RAF Brize Norton. - Credit: Jess Coppins

Sgt Hall's parents, Annie and Ian Hall, commented on the pride they felt towards their son's involvement in the evacuation.

"Chris sent the photograph to us the night before," Mrs Hall said.

"And we thought what a brilliant image.

"Then the next morning, Chris sent us a photo of the front cover of The Times.

"We were very proud.

"However, seeing what was happening over there gave us some anxiety.

"We were very concerned about his and everyone else's safety.

"But the achievement of this massive humanitarian mission is just overwhelming."

Chris Hall on Gorleston beach.

Sgt Chris Hall said being involved in the Kabul evacuation was one of the proudest moments of his life. - Credit: Jess Coppins

Chris Hall with his two sons on Gorleston beach.

Chris Hall has been in the RAF since he was 22. - Credit: Jess Coppins

Chris Hall on Gorleston beach with his two sons.

Chris Hall was last home with his family in May. - Credit: Jess Coppins

Chris Hall and his two sons.

Chris Hall made a flying visit home and treated his sons to the Norwich City kit. - Credit: Jess Coppins

Chris Hall with his two sons on Gorleston beach.

Chris Hall said his role as a father helped him interact with children in Afghanistan. - Credit: Jess Coppins