News story

Soldier honoured for storming insurgent position at 'Devil's Doorstep'

A soldier who led his men in a daring counter attack on an insurgent position that ultimately transformed the entire security situation in the area has been Mentioned in Despatches for his unflinching courage under enemy fire.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Colour Serjeant* Tony Bramham, aged 32, from 5th Battalion The Rifles, charged across deadly ground towards the insurgents when his patrol came under fire on 10 November last year in Babaji - an area known as the ‘Devil’s Doorstep’ for it’s ferocious fighting.

Three soldiers had been killed in the area in the previous three months and there had been 50 improvised explosive device (IED) and grenade attacks.

Just two weeks after arriving at Babaji’s Checkpoint Sorab, Colour Serjeant Bramham, from Newton Aycliffe in County Durham, was to find out just how determined the enemy was when his platoon patrolled the nearby village of Sukmanda.

Split into two small sub-units the patrol inched forward under cover, but, when they were just 100 metres away from an enemy position, gunfire erupted and bullets snapped the tree branches just inches above their heads.

Unable to return fire because they couldn’t see the insurgents, Colour Serjeant Bramham rallied his men and led them forwards. His idea was to become more visible so the second patrol could identify and target the enemy firing points.

His ploy worked, but the ensuing fire fight stopped them in their tracks. The ground was unknown to them and IEDs could be anywhere, but, with few options, Colour Serjeant Bramham took the decision to charge the enemy position. In full view, and with only partial cover from a smoke grenade, he led his men in a sprint towards the insurgents.

Shocked, the enemy ran away, but within moments they counter-attacked, before finally being defeated.

Colour Serjeant Bramham’s citation reads:

Throughout this action, Bramham displayed unflinching courage, bold and inspirational leadership and indomitable offensive spirit. His determination to close with the enemy and engage in close combat that day had a dramatic effect on the situation in the area - having defeated the insurgents in the village, the initiative passed to Bramham’s platoon.

“The insurgents never fully recovered and this set the conditions for their complete defeat over the coming weeks and the subsequent transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan Police.”

Colour Serjeant Bramham said:

It was my first tour in Afghanistan. On the first day I got shot at from around 70 metres. Every time we went out on patrol, we were engaged from short range, which is why the area was known as the ‘Devil’s Doorstep’.

On this occasion, we knew the enemy was setting something up as our eye-in-the-sky told us they were coming with a full-on advance.

But we didn’t know where they were exactly when the rounds started coming in. I had to weigh up the danger of staying in position with that of IEDs. That is the worst part as a commander, hoping your decision doesn’t lead to casualties. It is a sickening feeling.

I decided the threat from the small arms fire was greater and that we needed to seize the initiative. It proved to be the right decision thankfully and we drove them out.

It was a real turning point. After this, we gained local support and joint patrols with the locals saw the area become much safer and the full platoon returned home.

The Mention in Despatches is one of the oldest forms of recognition for gallantry within the UK Armed Forces. Since 1993 the Mention in Despatches has been reserved for gallantry during active operations.

The announcement was made last week with the release of the latest Operational Honours and Awards List which includes some 106 personnel. The awards are for actions taken during the period of Operation HERRICK 15 from 1 October 2011 to 31 March 2012. See Related News.

*Sergeant spelt with a ‘j’ is unique to The Rifles.

Published 5 October 2012