The soldiers from A Squadron, known as ‘The Empire’, of the Light Dragoons, an elite cavalry reconnaissance regiment normally based at Swanton Morley in Norfolk, found the huge cache whilst on operations with their Afghan Army partners in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand. The operation was specifically designed to take the fight to the insurgents in their own backyard.
Squadron Sergeant Major Brian Howard said:
We were moving towards a position and saw a blue tarpaulin in the wadi. I thought it was a body at first, because it’s not uncommon for Afghans to bury family members loosely on the hills.
I didn’t want anyone watching to realise what was going on, so we quickly dropped off six blokes then moved off in our vehicles to keep the dust screen moving.
Two soldiers, including Trooper Jamie McCartney, pushed forward to investigate further and found it wasn’t a body but a huge improvised explosive device cache consisting of 250kg of homemade explosives (HME) plus pressure plates, which are used to trigger the deadly devices.
Tpr McCartney said:
We recognised it as HME and confirmed using the water test. It turns the water milky and this silver stuff floats to the top, like mercury.
British bomb disposal experts bravely made safe and detonated the explosives after first light, destroying them at the scene with an earth-shuddering explosion which shattered the silence throughout the whole area.
On the significance of the huge find, Sgt Maj Howard said:
It gives great satisfaction taking capability away from the insurgents. The bomb disposal guys said that we had probably saved 60 limbs, or 30 pairs of legs. Ultimately, we’ve saved lives.
Tpr McCartney added:
Finding this stuff has had a huge impact on the enemy’s ability to strike us and the local people, and it has been great for the morale of the squadron. The lads feel it is a job well done, and each bit of good we do helps us to get on top.
Their Light Dragoon sister unit, B Squadron of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force, also found a 250kg cache earlier in the tour. Competitive rivalry has already blossomed between the two units to see who can find that elusive 250kg-plus cache.