Belfast Telegraph

How high-tech kit helped to save RIR soldier’s life

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Talk about a close call. This Co Down soldier has miraculously escaped with just bruising and a slight graze after being shot in Afghanistan.

Ranger Ryan Boyd was on patrol in Helmand Province when he was caught up in a fierce firefight with Taliban insurgents.

The 26-year-old from Newtownards, who deployed with the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment last month, cheated death when the bullet that was meant to kill him became lodged in his body armour.

“We came under attack from several enemy positions,” he said. “As I was returning fire with my light machine-gun, I was thrown off my feet and felt a sharp pain in my side.

“I told the sergeant next to me that I had been hit. He checked for bleeding and told me I wasn’t bleeding, so I carried on engaging the enemy. Only later when things had calmed down was I able to assess the damage.

“I feel lucky to have got out of this uninjured.”

The incident happened in the Nad-e’Ali district of Helmand Province earlier this month, however, details only emerged last night.

Royal Irish Regiment soldiers are currently taking new ground in the area and, according to the Military of Defence, the purpose of Ranger Boyd’s patrol was to map the terrain and show a reassuring presence to the local community.

“The insurgents mounted an ambush on the troops, but the Rangers successfully held them off for 25 minutes before the artillery dropped 105mm shells on the enemy, eliminating the threat,” said an MoD spokesman.

One of the side plates fitted to the body armour absorbed the force of the shot. Ranger Boyd was knocked off his feet by the blow, but not seriously injured, and was back on his feet fighting within seconds.

Body armour has been a highly sensitive issue for the MoD since tank commander Sergeant Steve Roberts was shot dead in Iraq in 2003, days after being ordered to hand in his armour because there were not enough sets to go around.

In 2006 the MoD spent around £16m issuing the Osprey Improved Combat Body Armour with thick ceramic plates in the front and back to protect major organs.

However, infantry soldiers in combat complained that the body armour was much too heavy.

In 2009 new Osprey Assault body armour, worn by Ranger Boyd, was launched which is lighter, more close-fitting and easier to move in.

Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: “Equipment is improving all the time and will continue to improve as new technology becomes available.

“The latest improvements make a real difference to soldiers’ personal protection and this incident demonstrates what a lifesaver it can be.”


Osprey body armour costs around £1,000 for a full set. They cover the front and back of the torso and are designed to protect vital organs.

In 2006 the MoD spent £16m on Osprey vests but soldiers complained they were too heavy and ill-fitting.

It has been a highly sensitive issue since Sergeant Steve Roberts was shot dead in Iraq in 2003, days after being ordered to hand in his armour after a shortage.

In 2009 new Osprey Assault body armour was launched which the MoD said is closer fitting and less bulky.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph