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The Storming of Objective FAN Soldier’s


‘lucky’ bullet escape A soldier has been described as “the luckiest in the British Army” after a bullet hit his helmet but missed his head by 2mm. Private Leon “Willy” Wilson, 32, a Territorial Army soldier from Manchester, was knocked over by the impact of the shot in Afghanistan but he was left without a mark after the bullet ripped through his headgear. “The medic was looking queasy - I don’t think anyone wanted to take my helmet off,” Pte Wilson said. The father of three was back on duty within an hour of the near-miss.


Pte Wilson, who is attached to the 2nd Battalion was deemed by MOD to be “... officially the luckiest man in the British Army”. He was manning a machine gun during a fierce battle with the Taliban in Helmand Province when he was hit by the 7.62mm AK47 bullet. “It shook me up but there is not much else you can do but get on with the job you are out here to do. I took my finger off the trigger when the shot hit my helmet,” Pte Wilson said. “I was knocked clean off my position and landed on my back. I had my eyes shut.” Pte Wilson, who usually works as an electrician, asked a comrade if he had been shot. “He was just staring at me in amazement and swearing and said ‘Yes’,” Pte Wilson said.


Pte Wilson was wearing a Mark 6a helmet which is made from several layers of Kevlar armour.


During the operation in which Pte Wilson was involved, a bomb-making factory was found and destroyed and several improvised explosive devices were uncovered.


The Commander of Task Force Helmand, Brigadier Tim Radford, said: “It may well have been luck that saved Pte Wilson but it was bravery that put him back up on the roof within the hour to continue fighting alongside the Warrior Afghan soldiers.”


The Storming of Objective FAN


On 19th September 2007, the 2 MERCIAN (Worcesters & Foresters) Battle Group launched Operation Palk Wahel (Hammer Strike) into the upper Gereshk Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The main objective was the Taliban-held town of Zumbelay, code-named “FAN”, which lies to the east of the Helmand River in the notorious green zone, an area of dense vegetation and irrigation ditches. Zumbelay was vital ground to the enemy and was their centre of gravity. At 0400 hrs, from east of Zumbelay, the assault was launched by C Company to secure the bridgehead (code- named Storey Arms) across a major canal using an Infantry Assault Bridge. D Company provided fire support from a hillside to the south-east, code-named Sugar Loaf. Simultaneously, B Company, from the west bank of Helmand River, struck key targets on the enemy’s flank, blocking his escape routes over the river. Once Storey Arms was secure,


C Company expanded the bridgehead on the west bank of the canal under heavy fire to allow A Company to move forward across the bridge and begin the clearance of Zumbelay. After hours of intense fighting in the heavily defended area, the Battle Group secured Zumbelay, thus opening a route into the Upper Gereshk valley, previously barred by a determined and well-resourced enemy. Of the Battalion’s many fights during Operation HERRICK 6, this action was notable as the only battle in which all its Companies took part and was the first action of the newly formed Mercian Regiment.


The Warrant Officers and Sergeants of 2 MERCIAN commissioned the Artist, David Rowlands, to paint a representative scene of the battle. The original hangs in the Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess in Palace Barracks and prints are available from PRI 2 MERCIAN.


Solihull Says Surprise Happy Easter to Afghanistan


Private Leon Wilson was back on duty within an hour


Troops spending Easter away from home were given a surprise, thanks to a Rainbow group from Dorridge. On Easter Sunday soldiers, sailors, airmen and women of Headquarters 19 Light Brigade gathered at St Martin’s Church at their base in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, to celebrate Easter. Out of the blue that morning they had received a special treat when an envelope full of posters and letters arrived at the camp. The posters, all hand-made and hand- written, were from children from 3rd Knowle Rainbow Group, Dorridge. The envelope had been sent to Padre Phillip McCormack, Senior


46 October 2009


Chaplain of 19 Light Brigade, which had just taken over responsibility for the UK troops in Helmand Province.


Padre McCormack said: “The work and effort put into these posters, cards and letters was hugely appreciated by everyone who received them. That these young children would think of us at this special season was deeply moving. Reading them you get a lump in your throat. In a very tangible way, the work of these school children made Easter even more memorable.” The posters have now all found pride of place on the wall of St Martin’s Church and many soldiers are now writing back to the pupils to say thank you.


The Mercian Eagle


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