THREE soldiers from Barnsley helped uncover 300kg of explosives in a village in Afghanistan - the largest find by British troops in Helmand this year.
Corporal Lee Marshall, and Lance Corporals Andrew Smart and Luke Wilkinson were taking part in an operation with the 3rd battalion the Yorkshire
Regiment, when they discovered a tarpaulin-covered truck in a ditch.
It contained enough fertilizer explosives to make at least a dozen road-side bombs but soldiers believe it could have been used in one devastating attack
on a patrol base.
“They could have driven it up to one of the patrol bases’ front gates and just blown it using a remote detonator,” said Lee, 27, who was leading the
search team that found it.
“It could have killed quite a few people, whether it was us, the Americans or the Afghan national security force, it’s great to stop it happening.”
The former Holgate pupil, who has been in the army seven years, said the vehicle had been booby-trapped to cause maximum damage to anyone who disturbed it.
“When we approached the vehicle we found an improvised explosive device at the side of it that could easily be seen. It was done on purpose to channel us to the back where there was another, bigger IED hidden. It would have caused a lot more damage if it had gone off but we found it anyway.”
They alerted the bomb disposal team and briefed them on what they had found before a controlled explosion was carried out.
The joint operation between British, American, Danish and Afghan troops was following intelligence that the village in the Nahr-e Saraj region housed a bomb factory.
A further 100kg of explosives and bomb-making equipment were found in other parts of the Afghan living quarters, known as a compound, which had been rigged with traps.
Medic Andrew, 26, of Kendray, who is part of a team that escorts the commanding officer on his duties, was preparing to leave when shots rang
The former Royston High pupil, who grew up in Wombwell, turned back to help his colleagues.
“There was gunfire and rocket propelled grenades going off. You can hear from the bangs what distance away they are and we were about 150m from them. The CO shouted to get our guns ready but as we drove over the gunfire stopped.”
Andrew, who speaks Arabic and Pashtu, said they were unable to trace the culprits who were thought to be hiding amongst farmers when the soldiers
Luke, 27, of Great Houghton, who was a driver in the operation, said his second tour of Afghanistan had been much more focused on the bomb threat.
“This tour has been much worse for IEDs whereas last time was worse for getting ambushed,” he said. “You still get mortars and grenades fired at you and plenty of small arms fire. This will be my last tour, my mum has got no fingernails left.”
*Barnsley Chronicle reporter Kate Pickles spent two weeks in Afghanistan with local soldiers and submitted her reports back from camp. More exclusive reports from her will appear in the paper on Friday *