A SOLDIER who ensured all 14 men in his patrol survived three ambushes in the space of an hour has been honoured for his bravery.
Sgt Simon Smith, who is based at the Dale Barracks in Chester, was just weeks away from returning home last autumn when he and his men came under fire in Afghanistan.
Sgt Smith was leading a patrol through a dense maize field when the men were ambushed from three positions.
Despite the massive onslaught, the height of the crop made it difficult to spot the insurgents and impossible to return fire without risking civilian casualties.
Sgt Smith, of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, said it was the most serious incident he had been involved in during his 13-year career which saw him tour Iraq, Northern Ireland three time and Afghanistan three times.
He said: “I got all the guys into an irrigation ditch but the weight of fire was knocking us over. It was just shredding the vegetation; the only way I can explain it is that it looked like an electric saw cutting wood right in front of your face.”
Sgt Smith safely led his patrol out of the attack but it was ambushed for a second time from no more than 50m away.
Again, thick vegetation hampered the patrol so, realising they were facing up to 10 well-armed insurgents, he ordered his men into a compound.
He said: “Because it was such a confined space, it was really hard to work out where the enemy were. It was confusing. I had 14 men with a lot of firepower but we couldn’t spot the enemy.
“The only times we could fire back was when they exposed their positions by firing on us.”
Sgt Smith called in reinforcements and directed them to attack the initial ambush while his own patrol engaged the second. The enemy fire was stopped and the patrol moved back to the checkpoint.
But the patrol was then ambushed for a third time.
Trapped in the open, Sgt Smith used grenades and small arms fire to pin the enemy down just 40ms away, before leading his men to the cover of an irrigation ditch.
From there, he summoned up air support, finally ending the fight and allowing the patrol to return safely to their checkpoint.
He said: “We had been in Afghanistan five months and this was our first fire-fight, although we had dealt with a lot of improvised explosive devices.
“Of the 14 men I had with me, for eight of them it was the first ever time they had come under fire. But they all did exactly what they should have done and that’s all down to the training before deploying.”
Sgt Smith has been mentioned in despatches for his bravery, the oldest form of recognition of gallantry within the UK Armed Forces.
He citation states: “Smith is a remarkable soldier who has been uniquely tested and performed in a remarkable manner.”
Sgt Smith, who is originally from Carmarthen, said his girlfriend Clare and mum Gwenda would be delighted by news of his honour.
He said: “They’ll be delighted. My mum will love it; she’s a big fan of the armed forces.
“I was called into the commanding officer’s office and I thought I was in trouble.
“It’s a good recognition for all of us who were on that patrol. We’re a team.”