Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Soldier saved by helmet in firefight

A Cumbrian soldier owes his life to his helmet after a bullet ripped through its side and out of the back –narrowly missing his head.

Lance Corporal Ashley Irving, of Cockermouth, cheated death earlier this month while he was serving in war-torn Afghanistan.

LCpl Irving, serving with the Duke of Lancaster’s 2nd battalion, was fighting the Taliban two weeks ago in Shawqat on the roof of a derelict compound site in a fierce one and-a-half-hour battle, when a bullet shot through the left-hand side of his helmet, skimming the back of it – millimetres from his skull.

Falling to the floor from the force of the impact, the brave soldier got back to his feet after being knocked unconscious for a few seconds, worrying about the welfare of his comrades.

The severity of the incident only occurred to the committed soldier, who had celebrated his 21st birthday just 10 days earlier, when the soldier next to him said that he had been shot in the head and blood was running down his face.

“I felt the impact and everything went black. I was only out for a couple of seconds and when I came round I was facing the sky,” he told the News & Star.

“I got up and was shouting at the lads, seeing if everyone was all right. A couple of seconds later, one of the lads said that I had been shot and blood was coming down the side of my face.

“I couldn’t really see at the time. The pain wasn’t too bad, as there was that much adrenaline pumping through me I didn’t realise I had been shot. I just thought it had hit my helmet – I didn’t think that it had gone through.”

LCpl Irving got down from the roof and went into one of the compound’s rooms where he sat on the floor with his back to the wall, took his helmet off and managed to bandage his own head. Other soldiers then rushed over to help.

He then ran 600 metres down the road – wearing no helmet as it would not fit over the bandages – to waiting armoured vehicles to take him to the medical centre, five minutes away.

He was then flown by helicopter to the Army field hospital at Camp Bastion (the main UK Army base in Helmand) before being transferred to the Critical Care unit at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, where he stayed for nine days.

He suffered a fractured skull and has lost five per cent of his peripheral vision to his right eye. Speaking from his Cockermouth home, with his family around him, LCpl Irving told about his experience in Afghanistan where he had been since August 13.

His platoon were flown to Babaji – recognised as one of the most dangerous insurgent strongholds in southern Afghanistan – where they carried out foot patrols, looking for roadside bombs and securing the area. After serving five weeks in Babaji, they went to Camp Bastion - where Ashley celebrated his 21st birthday on September 23.

His company was then sent to Shawqat a week later, again checking for roadside bombs and securing the area.

Read the full story here

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