The story of Our Boys in Afghanistan (2009/2010)

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The heroic stories of soldiers on the last Afghanistan campaign will be shortly told in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment Museum.

A new display within Bankfield Museum, Boothtown, Halifax, will be opened by the Mayor of Calderdale John Hardy on October 6.

Soldier Andy Reid follows behind his fellow troops having been presented with his operations medal. He lost his arm and legs in a IED attack whilst on duty with the Yorkshire Regiment in Afghanistan.

Soldier Andy Reid follows behind his fellow troops having been presented with his operations medal. He lost his arm and legs in a IED attack whilst on duty with the Yorkshire Regiment in Afghanistan.

The Dukes, now known as the 3rd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, have historic roots in Halifax and links with hundreds of Calderdale families.

The regimental museum charts the history of campaigns its soldiers have taken part in and the latest exhibit coves the 2009/10 Afghanistan campaign.

Regiment museum trustee Major David Harrap said it would focus on the stories of Cpl Andy Reid and the platoon of Capt William Sutton.

Both will attend the opening to give presentations of their stories.

“In choosing these two contrasting stories we have tried to reflect as well the random fortunes of war,” said Major Harrap.

Major Sam Humphris will set the scene for 3 Yorks deployment by his company in 2009/10.

The public are welcome to attend and should arrive by 2.30 pm.

The Battalion is currently serving in Afghanistan and is due home late October.

A civic reception for them will be held in Halifax on December 4 and an exhibition of that tour during which several colleagues lost their lives will be displayed at a later date.

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CORPORAL ANDY REID

Corporal Andy Reid, from St Helens, transferred to the Dukes in 2000 and remained with them for the rest of his service. He, together with his section, deployed to Afghanistan in August 2009 as Battle Casualty Reserves. These extracts are taken from his diary of the tour.

August 15, 2009

We have been on patrol this morning, to a mosque as there were reports of Taliban there but when we got there no one was about. Then we set off to a new compound to meet another platoon and started setting up but, on their way there, they got hit by an IED and one guy lost his arm, so they went back. We set off back at about 2100. It was only about 2km. We had been going about 40 minutes when there was a massive bang and it worked out the Platoon Sergeant, Val, had stepped on a pressure plate IED. He was getting first aid and the heli landing area was being selected.

I was told to send my Valon (metal detector) guy, Private Bush (2RRF), forward to clear a route to Val. As he went forward he stepped on an IED as well. The medic chopper landed and took the guys away. Sergeant Valentine (Val) lost both legs and died on the way to hospital and Bush lost both legs and one hand. He is stable. Bush said to me earlier that day that he would rather be dead than lose his limbs.

August 18, 2009

We had the service last night, it was very emotional. There were four people who had died altogether. Some of the lads said some words. Then I phoned Claire. We had a great chat for about 30 minutes. We chatted about loads of stuff. It was good. I know we are going to be together forever and I am so happy.

August 19, 2009

I did not sleep very well last night. I kept thinking, why did I send Bush forward to clear a route and why did I give him extra kit to carry. But the only answers are that is was his job as Valon man and he had to carry the extra kit.

August 26, 2009

We got woken up this morning at 0600 and told that Private Bush (2 RRF) had died in hospital in the UK. I don’t know why, but I did not feel sad but relieved. I think it was because he’d told me he would rather be dead than have lost his limbs and, to be honest, I think I would feel the same. I could handle one leg or an arm but not both legs and a hand, like he did. I don’t know, I just hope it doesn’t happen to me.

In the early hours of October, 13, 2009, Corporal Reid was on patrol when he was seriously injured by an Improvised Explosive Device. He was evacuated back to the UK that evening to the specialist military wing of Selly Oak Hospital where it was “touch and go” whether he would survive. He had lost both legs, the left one above the knee and his right arm. His left hand had the index finger almost completely removed. Yet survive he did and on Remembrance Day 2009, less than a month after later, he was re-united with his patrol back on their return to England. From there he went on to have a pair of prosthetic limbs fitted at the Defence Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court where he set himself the goal of personally receiving his Afghanistan medal from the Duke of Wellington at the battalion medal parade in Warminster and to march off parade on his new legs. He achieved this.

Since then he has married Claire, completed a world cruise with her, where, at the request of his fellow passengers, he gave two presentations - there was not a spare seat in the audience, motorcycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, sky dived, made many appearances on behalf of service charities and, in recognition of his remarkable resilience and determination, won the Sun Newspaper’s Military Award.

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THE LUCKIEST PLATOON

As part of the Battle Casualty Replacement programme a reduced platoon of 12 men from C Company, 3 YORKS, took over Patrol Base Hanjar, in South Helmand in late January 2010 where they were responsible for protecting local villages and farms from the Taliban. 

During the next two months of intense fighting they repeatedly came within came “within inches” of losing their lives to earn themselves the description as the “luckiest platoon” in Afghanistan.

On patrol in February an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded immediately in front of the lead man but only partially detonated - causing just a puff of dirt rather than the lethal result intended.

The platoon’s sniper, Lance Corporal Joe Jones, of Sowerby Bridge, was the next to escape.

He was giving cover to a patrol from a roof top, heard a loud crack, was thrown on to his back, put his hand to his throat and felt blood. Realising he was still breathing and only wounded he got to his feet to return fire. He was later treated by a medic who found a small bullet fragment still lodged in his neck.

Lance Cpl Jones later told the Courier: “We believe it was a sniper, 300 to 400 metres away.

“The shot glanced the right-hands ide of my neck and went through the shoulder of my body armour - a couple of millimetres was the difference between life and death.”

On March 3, Pte David Dyer was shot in the back by a Taliban sniper knocking him to the ground as another round passed over his head. The bullet that hit him had lodged in his body armour.

On March 16t, during a fire fight with the Taliban, an IED exploded next to Pte Adam McCurdy. He disappeared in a cloud of smoke and dust, only to come staggering out without a scratch.

An hour later the patrol was ambushed from two well prepared positions as they returned to base and Lance Corporal “Tonga” Loseli was hit three times one bullet grazed him under the armpit. Back at the patrol base he found another bullet had struck his body armour and a third had gone through his medic pouch.

Platoon commander Lieutenant Will Sutton had a near miss when a bomb short circuited and exploded seconds before he was due to walk over it.

Later, as he led his troops onto the Chinook helicopter at the end of their tour he was pulled aside by his company commander and congratulated for keeping his men safe with the words: “I can tell you this, Will, now that the tour is over – you guys are the luckiest platoon in Afghanistan.”