06.07.2012 - Last man over an I.E.D.

My lucky day

Not long before sunset on 06 July 2012 an I.E.D. detonated in a drain culvert beneath Highway 1, on the stretch of road between Gereshk and the turn-off for Camp Bastion a few miles west of the city. Despite not even seeing or hearing the blast I was told that I was the last British soldier to pass directly over that I.E.D. it before it exploded.

Not Sure Who These Were - Version 4

My suspicions had been raised not long after the explosion when I had seen this group of men besides a culvert on the main road, just below and out of sight of an Afghan police and army hill fort. As we were the last vehicle in our section of a very long convoy I knew that a dozen of our vehicles had already passed the group so there was no immediate threat. But it was an oddity I’d never seen before so I took my photo, I noted their presence to the vehicle commander and then continued to watch the empty road behind us.

Not Sure Who These Were

We were safely in Bastion before I dropped down to speak with the vehicle crew. Despite them being the best crew I could of hoped to have worked with, even they were looking a little too pleased with themselves...

“We’re the last ones back in time for tea”

- they said grinning before explaining that the patrol had been split up. An I.E.D. had destroyed a section of the road and we were the last to pass over it before it blew, so within a few minutes at most I would guess. That meant we were back in Bastion eating ice-cream whilst the vehicle behind us had to wait for a new route to be cleared and secured. I assume the I.E.D. was triggered remotely by a mobile phone signal so our electronic counter measures would have blocked that trigger signal as they tried to, well, kill us. 

I’ve never seen any official report of this incident but it was noted in conversations back in the recovery mechanics Platoon HQ so I have taken it as quite likely to being true. That means the group of Afghans I photographed besides the culvert were there as an insurance policy for us. They were possibly Afghan Local Police from the fort (NOT the fort shown in the last photo) who came and stood by the culvert to prove it was safe for us to pass. But the truth is more likely they were just passing civilians stopped by the Afghan army and forced to stand there, acting as human shields for our passing patrol.

Looking back, I'm appreciating just how lucky I’ve been in so many ways.

© Anthony C Heaford 2016