Martyn Williams in Afghanistan
Surviving an Afghan landmine
By Andrew Woodger
A Royal Marine from Suffolk was caught in an explosion while on patrol in Afghanistan. One of his best friends died. Martyn Williams returned home for Christmas 2008.
Friday 12 December 2008 was a dark day for the Royal Marines in Afghanistan with two separate bomb attacks on vehicles.
The first involved a teenage suicide bomber who killed three British troops in Helmand province. Also that day a Jackal patrol vehicle was blown-up by a roadmine. It killed Lance Corporal Steven "Jamie" Fellows and injured Marines Martyn Williams and Alex "Lenny" Lenaghan (read the BBC News story using the link on the right for more).
Martyn returned to the UK and was back home with his family at Nacton near Ipswich. He joined the Marines two years' ago and his first tour of duty began in September 2008 in Afghanistan with 45 Commando.
Jackal military vehicle
"All three of the occupants of the vehicle got thrown out. Jamie, who was one of my best friends got killed, I broke my foot and Lenny, who was top cover in the back, broke his jaw.
"We were providing fire support for the rest of the lads who were moving down. The first vehicle turned on the mine and the second vehicle set it off. It's a pressure-plate mine which is victim-operated and I was in the second vehicle.
"I was completely unaware of all this - I woke up in hospital afterwards with the padre telling me that Jamie didn't make it and that I'd broken my foot. Lenny remembers everything and he's worse off for remembering it, so I'm quite glad I don't remember it.
The forces are providing counselling/trauma management. Martyn has broken four bones across the top of his left foot - just above the toes. The breaks are clean and doctors haven't put a cast on. It's expected to take six weeks for the initial recovery, but it could be up to a year before there's a full recovery.
"I was obviously thankful that I'd survived and I could have been a lot worse off. There's a lot of lads in the [hospital] system with lost limbs.
"I'm very lucky to be where I am. I'm not missing limbs and I'm not killed so, yeah, I do feel guilty for that."
Martyn's parents are supportive of his decision to join the Marines. Mum Jayne remembers getting the news of her son's injury:
"Just shock - it was horrible. The phone line was so awful that we couldn't really understand what was going on, but we heard Martyn saying he was in hospital but he was okay.
"We got a second phone call a couple of hours later and it was much clearer. Martyn said he'd broken his foot, but it wasn't until we saw it on the news later that we understood fully what had happened.
"We didn't know how he'd broken his foot."
Martyn's father Andrew said: "It was a terrible day for the Royal Marines out there and for the families. It really brings home what these lads are putting on the line for us all.
"Martyn went into it with his eyes open. He knew what he was signing up for.
"It's a difficult situation. There's not going to be a military victory out there, but I don't believe we can walk away from it either.
The roof of the Marines' compound
"We've got work to do out there and at the end of the day it will be a negotiated settlement of some sort, so let's just hope that's sooner rather than later."
Jayne said: "I don't want him to go back, but it's his life and that's what he's chosen to do. I want him to be happy so I'm 100% behind him.
"We've got the funeral of his mate to face after Christmas, but we're just so relieved to have him home."
Martyn is likely to spend some time behind a desk, but he wants to get back to Afghanistan eventually. 45 Commando was in the Sangin area of Helmand province.
"We did rural and urban patrols in the bazaar which is just like walking down the town centre.
"The locals that live there live a very basic life. It feels weird back here with all the comforts when I know the lads are still out there struggling.
Inside the base
"I was sleeping in a cot bed with a mosquito net. I was living in accomadation which was a compound a few years ago, but now it's what we call home.
"Some of the patrols will be to instill hope in the local population and other days we will be going out to kill the Taleban. We will also be firing big weapons from the roof.
"The frontline isn't like it used to be. It's not like a line - it's ever-changing. One day the Taleban could be in civvies [civilian dress] and the next day they could be firing weapons at us.
"I'm not too sure what the future may hold. We can just carry on doing our job there killing the Taleban and instill hope in the locals that have got to live there.
"A lot of locals do pay interest in us. The kids are just like kids anywhere. The older ones are a bit more scared, but after a while they get to know us and it's good to see that they are just normal people.
Mixing with local children, Helmand
"The local economy from what I can see is just funded through drugs. While we were there we gave the farmers corn so they could grow normal crops, but a lot of it is for drugs and the drugs do find their way to our streets.
"Lads that were there a few years' ago say it's changed a lot for the better, so in another two years' time hopefully it'll be a lot better place to go to.
While Martyn was out there relatives were sending out 2kg parcels and Mr and Mrs Williams are appealing for non-relatives to send a shoebox out as well.
Toiletries, small games, books, magazines, book-lights and chocolates are all gratefully received.
All people need to do is package up their parcels labelled for British forces and take them to any post office. They'll then be sent out by the Ministry of Defence. Visit the uk4u website for other ways to donate by clicking on the link on the right.
Martyn finished: "I will go back. We'll see what the future holds but it should be a better place by the time I go back."
(All Afghan photographs provided by Martyn Williams.)
last updated: 07/01/2009 at 12:04
Have Your Say
Governments and Pharmacutiacal companies should support some of the Afghan farmers to grow Opium as medicine supply for them,the best painkiller in Medicine, that way hopefully some of it should be taken out of the clutches of drug dealers. God Bless and protect the brave and brilliant soldiers.