Friday, November 30, 2007

Swift and Bold

Helen at EU Referendum brings the latest writing of Michael Yon to my attention. It is about some events in May of this year while he was embedded with The Rifles that were not reported in the UK Press. A platoon of men, 24 of them led by a 2nd Lt on his first tour of duty, only 5 days off the boat find themselves surrounded by 200 well equipped and determined enemy. It is 9.40 at night and 4 1/2 hours before any support arrives,

"Rifleman Heeley and Rifleman Nunn, two of the soldiers in gym clothes, didn’t waste time joining battle, pulling on gear as they headed to the roof with 2Lt Lane. With bullets ripping across the roof, Heeley and Nunn crawled to different positions and began firing back. Under fire, Heeley, at only 21, turned out to be a natural combat leader. Wasting no time encouraging or yelling at other soldiers, Heeley took charge and throughout the 4.5 hour battle never once left the roof. He was one of only two soldiers to have fought the entire battle from that position.

Nunn, who had also come to the roof, turned out to be an animal, destroying at least 7 enemy positions. With all the lead flying it was a miracle he was not hit. Two hours into the fight, just as it was getting interesting, his beginner’s luck gave out when suddenly a bullet ripped through another soldier’s hand and smashed into Nunn’s thigh. Although Nunn wanted to stay he followed orders to get off the roof, down to the medic and get bandaged up. But a little later, 2Lt Lane spotted Nunn back on the roof, and ordered him to get back to the aid station; his leg wasn’t even properly dressed. Nunn disappeared off the roof, but in the dark he snuck back up to a position from which Lane couldn’t see him.

The guns were jamming because they had burned through the lubricant, so for 45 minutes Nunn brought around supplies of cooking oil, ammunition and water. Realizing Nunn was slightly out of his control, and though he knew his soldier would be better off sitting still, Lane finally relented and let Nunn continue fighting from a sanger.

Bullets and tracers ripped by Lane as he ran from sanger to sanger, moving his men into position and setting the tone of the fight. They fired back at an enemy that was probing and moving in. RPGs exploded, mortars rained down and the fighting stretched across one hour, then two, then three as the enemy probed for openings and Lane moved his men around to counter positions.

Go and read the whole thing. The Rifles swallowed the old Devon and Dorsets, whose cap badge I purloined as a cadet. I am honoured that I ever wore it (they turned down my application to join).

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