Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Colour Sergeant Mike Saunders, 2 MERCIAN, blogs from Helmand - Part 13

Welcome one again readers from the Marwood Worcester and any one else who has taken the time to read the Blogs so far.

To set the theme this week I would like to offer the words of George Bernard Shaw as I believe his words reflect well the thoughts I have had these past seven days.

There are fine things which you mean to do some day; under what you think will be more favourable circumstances. But the only time that is surely yours is the present; hence this is the time to speak the word of appreciation and sympathy, to do the generous deed, to forgive the fault of a thoughtless friend, to sacrifice self a little more for others.

Today is the day in which to express your noblest qualities of mind and heart, to do at least one worthy thing which you have long postponed, and to use your God-given abilities for the enrichment of someone less fortunate. Today you can make your life - significant and worthwhile. The present is yours to do with as you will.

You will of course know by now that over the last few weeks the Insurgents in this land have claimed the lives of several British troops and less well publicised a number of brave Afghan National Army soldiers. The second Battalion the Mercian Regiment has itself suffered, as has many others but as we have said before we will not be moved from our aim.

The Afghan soldiers that serve along side our own forces, are even more committed to the cause of a free and democratic Afghanistan than we are and fight fiercely against those who they see as corruptors of their land and way of life.

This week we have had the pleasure of the company of the BBC and other press representatives. They have come here to see for themselves the conditions and reality of the situation here. During a visit with the Unit Press Officer Captain Cresswell they themselves found out what it was like to be “in contact with the insurgents” and I am sure the stories they take back with them may have a little more colour than they anticipated.

It is my hope that they can return with no small measure of pride in your troops and can therefore attest to the fact that we your soldiers are serving in your name with distinction and dedication.

The Battalion is still committed on a daily basis to improving the capability of the Afghan Army; this in turn brings them in to frequent conflict with the Insurgents, who at the moment are engaged in a battle fought with explosive devices and short violent engagements.

Having spoken to many of the lads coming through camp Tombstone to go on leave, there is little doubt in my mind that the insurgents are as determined as ever to capture and dominate key areas for themselves, as to control an area is to control the population.

Just over a week ago a good friend of mine Martyn Chatterley who is working as a Sergeant Major with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) was involved in such an incident and this is a brief summary of what he could remember all be it in my words.

As the BRF we are often tasked to seek out where the insurgents are, this enables future planning to take action against areas deemed under their control. This task is essential as information provided by other sources can be unreliable and sketchy at best.

These tasks are in themselves inherently dangerous as we must cover ground not used in some time and also we will be operating in the insurgents 'back yard'.

The insurgent forces will almost always attack any formation they see approaching or encroaching on their areas of strength.

On the morning of the incident we were tasked to try and establish where the front lines of the insurgents are in a particular area. This would involve moving towards areas indicated by intelligence until the Insurgents engaged us, thus unmasking their positions and confirming their locations.

On our approach to the possible insurgent location we moved as we always do with as much stealth as possible, offering as little a target as possible at all times. We were getting very close when my vehicle was hit by an explosive device. In the movies when this happens the vehicle lifts of the ground and comes down on intact wheels in a cloud of smoke. Reality is very different, I don’t recall the whole of the event due to the initial shock of attack and my injuries; however I do remember the sheer force of the explosion.

The detonation of a large explosive device in a confined space is in itself a potent physical force. Normal objects like rocks and sand become superheated shrapnel driven by an invisible, unstoppable shock wave. To find yourself in the middle of such a force must be a truly terrifying experience and will I am sure be indelibly marked on the memory.

Martyn and his crew considered themselves 'lucky' although how someone who has faced what they have can be classed as such defies normal logic. To me it highlights yet again the professionalism and bravery of our troops on the front line.

There are many types of bravery for example there is the instant type of bravery which will see someone throw themselves in front of a car to save a child. The bravery shown here daily is different and more the impressive for it. Time after time our soldiers will go to places that will likely be mined or contain a fanatical apposing force. In doing so they show the type of grit and determination for which the British soldier is known and feared for. They do so knowing the potential cost as no sane person who has attended a repatriation ceremony cannot fail to be reminded of cost of operations in this theatre.

Martyn has returned to Operations and will continue to soldier on regardless of his brush with fate, his crew were also injured but all will hopefully fully recover soon. We are thankful that no permanent damage was done as many times before such attacks have had a different and much worse outcome.

As I end this week’s offering I would like to wish Lucy and the rest of the news crew a safe journey home. I hope they remember that aside from the obvious confrontations with a determined insurgency we are achieving great things here at considerable cost. They return with our best wishes and the hopes of us all for a safe conclusion of this tour



  1. What wonderful words of wisdom. We should always live for the moment because we never know what the next minute is going to bring. I believe that we should all be selfless at all times or at least try to be anyway. Giving to others whether it be advice, support,love, appreciation etc, etc is what we all should be doing more of in todays society. Look at all of our soldiers out there risking their lives,the ones that have fought the wars in years gone by and, no doubt, the ones to come. Without you all doing what you do we wouldn't have the quality of life that we have right now. You,our troops keep the fighting from our doorstep,for that we should be eternaly grateful. What you do is the greatest selfless act!
    I am so happy to read that the Sergeant Major and the rest of the soldiers where fine after the vehicle incident, lets hope and pray that they have a swift recovery both physicaly and mentaly.
    A big thank you to you for keeping everyone out here updated as to what goes on over there, it's really appreciated. God bless you all!!!!

  2. Special reports will be produced next week from Helmand where our Afghanistan correspondent will be the first British journalist - without the military - in Lashka Gah since one year... Want more? Please leave your comments and give us your ideas about what you would like to be investigated on;1/action;showpage/page_type;detail/page_id;178/