Monday, July 5, 2010

Sangin ambush alleys provide ground for Royal Marine heroics

By Thomas Harding, Daily Telegraph, Sangin

As Nato hopes for progress in Afghanistan rest on a closer partnership between foreign forces and Afghan troops, a Royal Marine has been praised by his commander for an "extraordinary" effort to save a wounded Afghan comrade.

Lt Jack Anrude from the Royal Marines saved the life of an Afghan special forces soldier who had been badly wounded in the legs

Lt Jack Anrude is likely to receive official recognition for the act of heroism when he saved the life of an Afghan special forces soldier who had been badly wounded in the legs.

The officer, of 40 Commando, was patrolling down an alleyway near his base in Sangin when a lone Taliban gunman jumped out and sprayed them with 30 bullets from his AK47.

The Afghan soldier in front of Lt Anrude, 25, took five rounds in his legs while Lt Anrude was shot in the arm and received fragmentation wounds in his leg.

Over four and a half hours, the Marine tended the wounds of the Afghan fighter while co-ordinating a medical evacuation. Then he carried the wounded man to a safe landing spot for the helicopter.

"We were trying to talk with a village elder at the back of a mosque when an insurgent came round the corner and fired 20 to 30 rounds at us from about 15 metres away. The majority of the rounds went into the deck and then sprayed up towards us," he said. "At first I didn't really notice that I'd been shot in the arm, I was just reacting to what was happening on the ground. As soon as the Afghan went down I returned fire. My main priority was to get the wounded out, obviously myself being one of them, so I started dragging the [Afghan soldier] into cover and out of danger."

"I was very lucky. It was quite a surreal experience. I didn't know I'd been shot in the arm. My legs hurt a bit but my main priority was to get the casualty out."

Lt Col Paul James, the commanding officer of 40 Cdo, had high praise for the officer. "Jack Anrude was hit in the arm, in the head and legs yet he still carried on commanding his troops. He personally evacuated the Afghan soldier by carrying him up a hill. It was an extraordinary act of courage and he did all that while he was wounded."

"What the guys are going through here, it's quite humbling to see how the young lads are taking it on. It's very frustrating at times but the guys are excelling and it's testing their soldiering to the extreme."

The Daily Telegraph is the first newspaper to visit Sangin, the most lethal town in Helmand for UK forces, in almost three months. Lt Anrude's gun battle is was typical of the dangerous normality faced by the Royal Marines of 40 Commando who venture onto the streets and footpaths of Sangin dozens of times each day.

Already 11 have been killed in the 1,400 strong battlegroup almost three months into their tour with another 30 injured either by small arms fire or more usually by the Taliban's sophisticated IED (improvised explosive device) network.

On patrol eyes have to be not only on the next treeline and a potential insurgent gun emplacement but also focused on the ground immediately under your feet.

Even the most mundane objective is fraught with risk. One patrol to the weekly cattle market heard warning from intelligence sources of the threat of suicide bombers or attacks by heavy machine guns mounted on trucks.

The troops have been tasked with installing a veterinary clinic at the market to improve animal husbandry, thus raising the value of the animals.

But the reaction from the locals was hostile.

"If you are here they will try to shoot you and you will try to shoot them and we will be killed," a man in a green robe said.

The patrol leader decided pull out but the Taliban had already gathered for an attack.

The Taliban's favourite tactic is to try to force the marines into an ambush zone with targeted fire. The eight Royal Marines accompanied by six Afghan police, was driven into a 6ft wide irrigation channel by Taliban gunfire.

"Trail a stick in front of you in the water in case there's a trip wire in it," said Capt Dom Rogers who was wary the shots were a deliberate ruse to force us into a bobby-trapped ditch.

Five children were spotted on the escarpment above watching on. Gunfire starting coming in from the left and bullets ricochetted off trees.

The close 'crack-thump' of rounds overhead suggested the enemy was close, perhaps 150 metres away but still unseen.

After a perilous run downstream, an Afghan police fort offered refuge but only after 100 yards of open ground.

The Marines threw smoke grenades to cover a dash to safety.

Once under cover, the Marines organised to fire into half-a-dozen insurgent positions with machine guns and rifle launched grenades.

After 10 minutes and more than 1,000 rounds expended, the battlefield went silent.



  1. Firstly, what Lt Anrude did, is in our Forces 'make up' - they leave nobody behind - however, that aside, well done and hope you are now well recovered:

    What our troops endure for what I believe to be too many UNGRATEFUL people.

    As always so very Proud of our troops - God Speed x

  2. Jack is a great friend of my nephew also a Lt Marine out there.Well done Jack - what a hero!
    You make us proud. Godbless you and protect you all.