Trooper, 18, tells of firefight hell

Trooper Jeff Hannah, 18, from Edinburgh
Trooper Jeff Hannah, 18, from Edinburgh
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A SOLDIER blasted by shrapnel during a Taliban raid has spoken of the moment an explosion rocked his convoy and landed him in hospital.

Trooper Jeff Hannah, 18, suffered injuries to his head, chest, shoulder and lower leg during the July attack in Afghanistan but is today being flown back to Cyprus for a well-earned seven-week leave of absence.

The city soldier has been on active service manning Warthogs – all-terrain vehicles deployed to provide extra protection – for the last six months with D Squadron Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

The unit was engaged in operations within days of completing its training, returning rarely to base at Camp Bastion for the first six weeks.

Mr Hannah recalled how one evening, after arranging their vehicles in a protective box formation during an operation, they were shelled by insurgents.

“We were about 10km from a patrol base near Lashkar Gah, we had put the vehicles in a box for the night,” said the soldier.

“We were there for about an hour, then we engaged the Taliban with a recoilless rifle.

“No-one really expected it to happen, then it happened out of nowhere. When it impacted the box, it hit one of the vehicles.

“I was beside it on a cot bed just having a chat with my mates. You hear a whoosh, you look up, and you see a massive flash and you see hot bits coming towards you like something from a sparkler.

“We saw it explode on a vehicle – me and another guy got into cover, then I realised I was injured.”

The teenager sustained multiple injuries and scrambled back to patrol base alongside a fellow soldier before the pair were evacuated by helicopter. Mr Hannah spent three weeks in hospital in Camp Bastion where he was treated before being returned to duty.

“It was a bit daunting, I didn’t really realise until I saw the damage to the vehicle,” he added.

His squadron experienced one loss during the tour – which came on the same day as one of the biggest firefights it experienced in the Upper Gereshk Valley.

Mr Hannah will stop in Cyprus before returning to a base in Germany and will then enjoy seven weeks’ leave.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com