Friday, October 9, 2009
A soldier was branded "one lucky idiot" by comrades for cheating death three times during a stint in Afghanistan.
Private Daniel Britton, 22, from Nantwich, Cheshire, said he is fortunate to be alive after an action-packed six-month tour in Helmand Province.
He contracted dysentery after nearly drowning in a fast-flowing river, had a bullet brush past his head in an attack by the Taliban and was shot in the chest during a separate strike.
The soldier, from The 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, had his first brush with death in April, just one month into his tour, when he was trying to cross a swollen river.
"The current became too strong. It swept my feet from under me. I'm not much of a swimmer and I was washed underneath the water. The weight of my kit made it very difficult to stay afloat. All that was going through my mind was 'I'm dying'," he said.
Private Britton's colleagues managed to pull him out, only for the soldier to be diagnosed with dysentery. And the former South Cheshire College pupil had only just recovered when the Taliban shot at his head and thought they had killed him.
"It was very early morning in the patrol base and I was sat outside cleaning my weapon. All of a sudden several bullets whizzed past my head. I yelled to everyone to 'stand to' and that began the start of a four-day contact. When I thought about it afterwards I realised how lucky I was to still to be here. I heard later that the Taliban thought they had killed a British soldier. I know that was me they were talking about," he said.
Private Britton's troubles were not over. He was within centimetres of death when the Taliban shot him in the chest, and the soldier was sure he was bleeding. But the bullet became lodged in his body armour, and the liquid on his skin turned out to be sweat.
He said: "The first I knew of the Taliban presence was when I was thrown back with massive force. It was like a sledgehammer hitting my chest. I could feel liquid on my skin and I was convinced it was blood. It could have been a different story if it had landed a few centimetres to the right. The guy who had pulled me out of the water at the start of the tour was there this time too. He told me I was 'one lucky idiot'."
Private Britton admits he was relieved to reach his 22nd birthday but, even then, as he celebrated with friends at a fancy dress party in the patrol base, the Taliban fired a series of Chinese rockets in their direction.