Wednesday 7 October 2009

'The huge explosion ... '

Led by a Counter Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) team in one of two Mastiffs, a detachment of the 19 Light Brigade's elite Reconnaissance Force in Helmand recently had a lucky escape.

Returning from an operation, with 26 Jackals in tow, the Mastiff was "struck by a massive IED". The "huge explosion" showered dust and wreckage across the convoy.

"For a moment," went the official account, "everyone is in shock and there was an eerie silence as the dust billowed out and the grim realisation of what had happened sunk in." But, within seconds, vehicle and convoy commanders were shouting orders to their men. L-Cpl Ryan 'Kingy' King was aware of the threat and shouted: "Get ready! Here it comes. If they're going to attack it's going to be now."

And so on ...

Significantly, the highly mobile Jackals - famed for their off-road performance - were now trapped behind the damaged Mastiff at the front of the convoy. But "miraculously" no-one was seriously injured. The extent of the damage was that the "front right wheel of the Mastiff had been mangled".

However, it would be many hours before a recovery vehicle could be on the scene. With the convoy blocked in and no recovery of the vehicle available for many hours, the BRF prepared for a long night by their vehicles, in the open and surrounded by insurgents. They survived. It was a recovery vehicle that was needed – not a casevac helicopter.

Interestingly, until recently, the CIED teams were driving the Tellar - many still are. Had this team been leading the way in such a vehicle – similar in design to a Vector – people would most likely be dead.

The picture shows Lt Alex Wilson, aged 29 from Berkshire, and Pte Billy Eden, aged 22 from Grimsby, with their damaged Mastiff. They had been inside the vehicle when it was hit by the IED. Their evident good health tells its own story. To date, no soldier has been killed in a Mastiff. To date, 11 men have died in Jackals.