‘The luckiest man in Helmand’
It wasn’t as loud as I had expected. But it was clearly an explosion. Just a few yards away to my left.
‘UGL!’ shouted a voice from closer to the site of the expanding dust cloud that I was already able to taste. It quickly stuck to the sweat on my the skin of my face and particularly my wet lips. It tasted foul as I licked them. A UGL is an Underslung Grenade Launcher Round – sort of a portable mortar that is fitted under a rifle and can throw a small explosive charge further than a man’s arm.
The shout was echoed a couple of times, as we all dropped to the ground. The obvious place for us to go would be into the irrigation ditch that was behind us – obvious to the enemy too. A good idea from them would be to fire a UGL at us and then run off, whilst we took cover in a ditch that was seeded with IEDs. No, we just fell to the ground where we were.
The dust still swept across us.
The worst words. Repeated over and over. Across to my right I heard the commander of the ‘multiple’ I was working in, speak into his radio. ‘Contact – Man Down’.
‘I need two men over here,’ shouted another voice.
Without thinking I was on my feet and running. ‘It’s not a UGL,’ said the rear man as I ran past him, and then he shouted ‘CONTACT IED.’
I turned and stopped and saw…nothing. There was no-one there. There was a lot of dust in the air, and in the cutting through the fence across the irrigation ditch there was a small mound with two thick white wires exposed. IED.
I looked down. Already the other man who had run with me was in the ditch with a further rifleman who were frantically pulling at something deep in the ditch. There was a man down there. Silent.
The only words spoken were by the Medic who was already on the scene. In his soft Geordie tones he said ‘Lift him up over there. Gently mind. Head your way…Reet…’
He set to work straight away, but I refused to look down that way. I stared into the face of the young lad. ‘Okay. The medic is already here. Be cool. It’s all going to be Okay.’
The injured man spoke for the first time. ‘F***. My foot. F***. I f***ing knew it. I had a bad feeling about today. What’s it like? Is it gone? My f***ing foot…’
‘Easy, easy, easy. What’s your name?’ I asked.
‘Well, Cpl Jones, unless your Mum is in the military, I bet she doesn’t call you that. What’s your first name?’
‘Right then John. It’s all okay. You are gonna be just fine. The medic is working on you right now. In fact the other medic has just turned up. There’s two of them now. You are in the best hands you could ever be in.’
‘I stood on it. It was an IED wasn’t it…’
‘Looks that way John. It’s okay. You’ll be in out of here really soon.’
‘What’s it like? It is gone?’
I turned to expect the worst. But the worst just wasn’t there. John was the luckiest man in Helmand. The medic had already cut off the boot on John’s right foot and had peeled the sock off. Yes. Cut off the boot and peeled off the sock.
By some miracle – be it that it was a badly made IED, or that it had been buried too deeply, or just that it hadn’t gone off properly, John was officially the luckiest man in Helmand. There was no blood. There were 5 pink toes and one white foot there at the end of his leg. There was bruising and reddening around the ankle and heel, but…his foot was still there. He’d stood on an IED and yet…
To read the rest of this incredible story from the latest blog piece by RAFairman, click HERE.