The British officer lay flat on his stomach — down on his belt buckle, in Army parlance — beside the dusty Helmand road and stared intently at the red drum buried in the earth and the ominous white wires protruding from it.
Captain Dan Shepherd was an experienced bomb disposal officer who had dealt with scores of roadside bombs like this, the Taliban’s deadly — and increasingly successful — weapon of choice in the war in Afghanistan.
British soldiers observing him through binoculars from a safe distance saw him rise to his knees . . . and then disappear in the cloud of a massive explosion. ‘He was just atomised,’ recalled one of those watching. ‘There was almost nothing left of him.’
Not on the ground anyway. But within seconds a terrible shout of horror went up from the platoon of young soldiers. Small pieces of Shepherd’s body were raining down on them from the dust cloud.
This was — and is — Afghanistan, a place of courage, certainly, but also instant death and sights so horrific that those who witness them will never be the same again. As soldiers rushed towards the site of the explosion, a veteran sergeant stood in their way. ‘Go away,’ he told the youngsters under his command. ‘You don’t need to see this.’
As our involvement in Helmand heads towards its seventh year and the number of British troop fatalities in Afghanistan nears 420 with little sign of respite, an award-winning book on the war deliberately pulls no punches in its depiction of the conflict’s gruesome realities.
Written by Daily Mail journalist Toby Harnden, it follows the Welsh Guards in gripping everyday detail through a six-month tour of duty in Helmand in 2009.
Sixteen from the Welsh Guards Battle Group would die, including the charismatic and hugely popular commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Thorneloe. Dozens more would be seriously wounded and many left with mental scars that may never heal.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...#ixzz1wXx7a3op