SOLDIERS from the Portsmouth area have saved countless lives in Afghanistan after they helped local police seize a Taliban truck packed with 1,500lb of explosives.
Hampshire-based troops from the First Battalion Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment – including a Fareham soldier – came across a truck containing enough explosives to make about 140 roadside bombs.
The haul came just days after the 1PWRR soldiers, known as The Tigers, had arrived in Afghanistan to mentor the local police force.
The soldiers were supervising officers at a checkpoint in the Helmand town of Gereshk when the Afghan police became suspicious of an empty truck.
On closer investigation, a hidden compartment in the back of the vehicle was found to contain two pistols, insurgent propaganda magazines and a huge amount of bomb-making equipment.
The Tigers praised their Afghan counterparts, who were talked through how to perform a controlled explosion of the home-made haul.
Captain Matt Swales, 28, from Knowle Village, Fareham, said: ‘I found this extremely encouraging.
‘This operation was entirely planned and carried out by the Afghan police. It shows that we are making significant progress, both by increasing the capacity and capability of the police and security forces in Helmand.’
The Taliban has used homemade bombs, known as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), to kill and injure scores of British troops and Afghan civilians in the warzone during the last decade.
The Tigers deployed to Afghanistan for six months at the end of September and are working as the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group (PMAG) in Central Helmand.
Their mission is to work closely with local police to ensure Afghan forces can maintain law and order after Britain’s planned withdrawal from the country by 2015.
Lance Corporal Matthew Kim, of 1PWRR, said: ‘We only took over about a week ago and I’ve already seen that the police here can get results.
‘Hopefully we can continue this good work and maybe save more lives in the future.’
The Afghan National Police’s own bomb disposal team destroyed the deadly contents of the truck under the watchful eye of Britain’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Search Task Force.
Captain David Malenoir-Evans, who is commander of the task force, said: ‘This is a significant find that has undoubtedly saved many innocent lives. The fact that this was an entirely Afghan-led operation is testament to the improving capability of the Afghan security forces.’
Troops out on the front line in Afghanistan
THERE are 450 soldiers from the First Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1PWRR) in Afghanistan.
Only a small number of men from Hampshire’s regiment have experienced life in the war-torn country before as this deployment is the first time the entire battalion has been sent together as part of 20 Armoured Brigade.
The troops are responsible for the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group (PMAG) in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, where they will be training members of the Afghan National Police for the next six months.
The battalion previously served two tours of Iraq in 2004 and 2006.
The regiment was formed in 1992 as an amalgamation of The Queen’s Regiment and The Royal Hampshire Regiment, which was known as the Hampshire Tigers. PWRR took on The Tigers nickname and is still the regiment for Hampshire as well as the Isle of Wight, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex and the Channel Islands.
The First Battalion is based in Barker Barracks, Paderborn, Germany.
The Second Battalion is a light role infantry battalion based at Woolwich Barracks in London. It is on short notice to reinforce army operations around the world. For the last 12 months, the 2PWRR soldiers can be found performing ceremonial duties at royal palaces in the capital.
Elements of 2PWRR have previously served in Afghanistan with other regiments.