Belfast Telegraph

RIR man recalls his ambush hell

by Natalie Irvine

A Belfast-born soldier who was shot in an Afghan ambush eight weeks ago, has spoken of the night that he and his patrol almost lost their lives.

Kris Bradshaw, a Lance Corporal with the Royal Irish regiment, had volunteered to head out to Helmand before the rest of his regiment to help secure the area ahead of the mass deployment of troops from Northern Ireland.

Kris, recuperating at his Taughmonagh home, said: “Just before we went on patrol that night I had a gut feeling something bad was going to happen.

“This was my third time in Afghanistan and so this feeling I had was unusual. I texted my friend on the lap top just before I headed out to tell her I would be out of contact for a few days with a patrol.

“Though I didn’t want to alarm her, I did decide to tell her about the bad feeling I had about it — 37 minutes after I sent that text I was lying on a hospital bed.

“We were patrolling in a field when we were ambushed by snipers, there were around six attackers lying low shooting at us. My colleague was shot in the leg, I was his cover man and the next thing I knew, my gun was shot out of my hand.

“I was carrying the gun across my chest — the snipers were shooting to kill. I ducked down and got to a ditch, while the rest of the patrol returned fire. I didn’t realise I was shot, I just thought my wrist had broken from the force of the shot against the gun.

“It wasn’t until I was on the way to the hospital, when my glove was taken off that I saw blood and was told the bullet went through my wrist.”

Kris was only 22 days into his six month tour, the attack taking place the same day the rest of his regiment were being waved goodbye to from the swelling crowds in Northern Ireland.

“Everyone tells me I am lucky to still be alive, but I think if I was lucky I wouldn’t have been shot!” Kris laughs.

“I have time off to heal now as I have lost the feeling in my fingers on my right hand — the bullet severed the nerve. Surgeons took a nerve from my leg and put into my hand so I have to wait seven months before I can begin training again and join the rest of my regiment.”

Although progress in Afghanistan is slow, Kris says it is much better than his first deployment in 2006 when they couldn’t even leave camp. “Now, we can patrol the streets on foot, I would say 99 per cent of the Afghan people in that area are behind us, they can see the progress and development that us being there has created. It is just a small minority that want to attack us, but at least we aren’t getting blown up as much any more — just shot at.”

He was based in the notorious ‘green belt’. “The first time you see the fields of cannabis, it is quite nuts. There’s a lot of gangsters in Afghanistan, and the opium trade is massive out there.

“When I see little children, no older than five working in the fields with their spades, and then I come home to see my niece who is around the same age playing with her toys, it just beggars belief.

“It really makes me appreciate where I’m from and I love returning home to my country — I feel very fortunate that I live here.”

Though Kris is itching to get back to his army mates to join in with the next round of adventures, life at home is not all boring — the girl he texted before he was ambushed has now become his girlfriend.

Kris said: “I can’t say it was the near death experience that brought us together, but if I hadn’t been shot and brought home, we wouldn’t have got together.”

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