MoD reveals Anglians' casualty rate

MARK NICHOLLS The full horror and intensity of the Royal Anglian Regiment's ongoing mission in Afghanistan has been revealed after details emerged of an alarming casualty rate among troops.


The full horror and intensity of the Royal Anglian Regiment's ongoing mission in Afghanistan has been revealed after details emerged of an alarming casualty rate among troops.

Three soldiers from the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment - which recruits in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire - have been confirmed killed in action in operations against the Taliban during operation in Helmand province in the last few weeks.

But more significantly, the number of soldiers injured - some severely - has now been released to the Eastern Daily Press.

The Ministry of Defence is traditionally reluctant to give full details of casualties - citing reasons of operational security - but the EDP can reveal that at the half-way stage of the six-month deployment, a further 40 troops have been injured, several of them with what are described as life-changing injuries.

The news also comes after it emerged that two of the three members of the armed forces killed in a mortar attack on their base at Basra in southern Iraq were from RAF Honington.

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The 1st Battalion Royal Anglians, nicknamed The Vikings and with 600 soldiers in Helmand, has had significant successes in driving Taliban forces from their strongholds across troubled Helmand province since they deployed to the troubled province in April.

But the regiment has now revealed that those advances have come at a high price.

And now the battalion's commanding officer, Lt Col Stuart Carver, intends to establish a memorial fund for those killed from the current deployment.

It will also help support those injured and have the aim of assisting soldiers who are able to continue their military careers rather than being medically discharged from the army.

Military analysts and charities have praised the battalion for setting up the fund but stress the government needs to do more to help and support injured service personnel.

Details of the 1 R Anglian Afghanistan Memorial Fund have been announced by the battalion's adjutant, Capt Mark Nicholas from Norwich. He spoke of the demanding nature of the deployment and said: “As we approach the halfway point of our six-month tour, the battalion has suffered three fatalities and over 40 soldiers have been injured as a result of enemy action.”

Capt Nicholas added: “For many, the nature of the injuries sustained will impact on the rest of their lives. Some will suffer permanent disability and others may be restricted in what they can physically achieve. It is the commanding officer's intention to establish a fund that will provide for a permanent memorial in East Anglia to the memory of those who have died. The fund will also offer assistance to the immediate families of those who have died and to those soldiers who have been severely injured in the interest of them continuing a full military career.”

The three soldiers killed were Pte Chris Gray, 19, the victim of a Taliban bullet on April 13; Cpl Darren Bonner, 31, who died on May 28 when the vehicle he was in hit a mine and L/Cpl George Davey, 23, who died in a firearms accident. Many more have been injured, some losing limbs, sustaining bullet wounds or fragmentation wounds.

And there have been examples of great courage, notably when L/Cpl Oliver Ruecker braved bullets and rockets to rescue his badly injured comrade Cpl Dean Bailey from a burning troop carrier. The Norfolk soldier could be recommended for the Victoria Cross.

The Vikings have driven the Taliban from strongholds and brought security to the northern sector of the province.

The death toll among British service personnel in Afghanistan since oper-ations began in November 2001 is 64.

Keith Simpson, mid-Norfolk Tory MP and a military historian, said people in the UK barely understood the intensity and ferocity of the operations facing British personnel in Afghanistan. “They are in daily fire fights, which is quite different to the occasional sniper in the days of Northern Ireland and there are more getting injured. Many are coming home physically and mentally damaged,” he said. “What the Royal Anglians are doing with this fund is commendable... but the government needs to be doing more, voluntary charities set up by regiments cannot be seen as a substitute for bigger commitment from the government.”

Adrian Allenby, county field officer (Norfolk) for the Royal British Legion, said it was getting more inquiries for help from younger soldiers who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said: “It is those injured who may have to make lifestyle changes and their families that are most affected. They may have to leave the service and move out of military accommodation and we are there to support and give advice with benefits or retraining and resettlement.”

To donate to the 1 R Anglian Afghanistan Memorial Fund, make cheques payable to CB 1 R Anglian and send them to Major R C Barrett, Treasurer, 1 R Anglian Afghanistan Memorial Fund, Elizabeth Barracks, Pirbright, Surrey, GU24 0DT.

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