Saturday, July 3, 2010

Heroes in the heat of battle

From DUNCAN LARCOMBE, The Sun, at Kings Hill compound, Helmand, Afghanistan

HERO British soldiers have spoken for the first time of their daily battles with the Taliban in a scorching Afghan outpost called "Hell".

B Company of the 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment have lost nine men killed and 12 seriously wounded in five weeks defending the remote Kings Hill base in Helmand.

But the lads remain determined to see the job through and believe it is a battle they can win.

Just 500 metres from their mud-walled compound lies a building they constantly watch.

A young soldier on watch said: "This is where the Taliban meet up. They are all around us here. What you're looking at is the front line.

"Walk out there on your own and you would be dead in seconds. That field is full of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and the ditches around it are even worse."

The soldier - who cannot be named because he is a sniper, hated by the enemy - went on: "The other day the Taliban crept in and, using trees and a ditch as cover, planted nine IEDs. The next morning two of our guys were killed and a few more were badly injured. It's a coward's way to fight."

A team from The Sun spent time with the Mercians, for whom the dust, heat and primitive conditions make life uncomfortable enough without Taliban attacks.

We were greeted with the words: "Welcome to Hell."

B Company is led by Major Richard Grover, who clearly enjoys the support and respect of his 100 men. His Wirral accent reveals he is from the same area of the UK as most Mercians.

Part of his job is helping them deal with the loss of comrades. He said: "For the first few days the guys are downbeat. You have to be strong. One private lost his leg in an IED strike. He was the ninth man in the patrol to walk over the pressure plate.

"For some reason, because he's a big lad and was carrying a heavy pack, it detonated. Another is now a triple amputee. He got thrown into a ditch by the explosion. It's worse when it's an IED, because there's no one to fire back at." He added: "What impresses me about these men is the fact they are just ordinary guys, lads like any you would meet in the street. But they are doing an incredible job."

As we were being shown around, the clatter of incoming Taliban machinegun fire filled the air.

Seconds later a soldier on a sentry post let rip with several short bursts of fire. The enemy gun fell silent. Corporal Lee Kelly, 32, said: "This is guerrilla warfare, it's a dirty war. Every day there's a contact. One of my very best mates, Corporal Andy Breeze, was killed.

"I think we'll be in Afghanistan a long time. It's a marathon, not a sprint. But we are pushing the Taliban back. Progress is being made.

"This is definitely our toughest tour - but we'll get through it."


  1. This is such an open and honest blog - We at home are obviously frightened for you, at the same time so PROUD:

    R.I.P lost heros - Recover soon dear Wounded and for the lads still out there: Stay strong, Stay Safe, Praying for you All. God Speed.

  2. From New Zealand - my very best wishes and thanks to you all.

    I'm proud to say that we too are helping out, with our S.A.S. guys over there.

    I hope you guys get **lots more support**. More patrol bases near you, more powerful weapons and a lot more equipment to find and destroy I.E.D.s.

    ***You will win!***