28 Sep 2012

Soldier shot in the head by a sniper wins military cross

A soldier, who survived being shot in the head as he ran to protect a colleague, is awarded the military cross for bravery.

The Military Cross (Getty)

Rifleman Matthew Wilson, 21, of 2 Rifles, was withdrawing from an operation in Nahr-e Saraj, Afghanistan, in October 2011 when an insurgent sniper shot at the patrol – hitting one of the soldiers in the leg.

As the wounded soldier lay exposed to danger, Rifleman Wilson ran forward with another soldier to provide cover against further shooting.

But as he identified the enemy position to return fire, a bullet glanced off the top of his helmet knocking him unconscious.

“There was a massive crack sound and then my head was whipped sideways,” recalled Rifleman Wilson, who was out for 30 seconds before being shaken awake.

“As a soldier I know the preparations the insurgent would have taken prior to taking that shot, and it would have been just a minor mistake – a slip of the shoulder – that meant he hit the top of my helmet and not my face,” said the soldier from Aberystwyth.

But the threat remained as the insurgent started to target the incoming casualty evacuation helicopter as the soldier started to come to.

He crawled forward to identify the enemy position but the sniper was too well hidden.

So Rifleman Wilson ran across an open field under a hail of bullets.

He said: “When I got up the insurgent who shot me knew I was still alive so he kept on firing at me. Staying there wasn’t a good place to be, but also we couldn’t risk the helicopter going down or the shooter hitting the casualty again or one of the helicopter crew.

“We needed to do something about it and nobody else could get eyes on the shooter’s position. So I started pegging it.

“You could hear him going for me … I was zigzagging, doing everything to avoid the bullets that at first were landing by my feet, and then whizzing past my head. He was getting closer and closer.”

I never thought I would have something like this medal – it’s a pretty big deal and hasn’t really sunk in. Rifleman Matthew Wilson

The soldier just made it to the protective cover of a ditch when an Apache attack helicopter arrived to give them cover as they retreated safely to a nearby compound.

His head still pounding from the impact of the bullet, he then climbed on to the compound wall to help identify the enemy firing point.

He also returned fire and with the combined effort of the rest of the patrol launched a counter-attack, before continuing with the rest of his patrol back to his base.

Massive headache

Recalling the aftermath of being shot in Afghanistan, Rifleman Wilson said he didn’t remember what was happening.

“I just remember waking up with a massive headache but I didn’t realise what had happened right away. It’s weird. I didn’t just get up and think that I have just been shot in the head. But when I put my finger on my helmet it was really hot where the bullet had hit.

He said: “I hadn’t forgotten about it, but I’d just moved on, so I was a bit confused when I was told to go and see the commanding officer as that’s not normally a good thing.

“I never thought I would have something like this medal – it’s a pretty big deal and hasn’t really sunk in.

“But I can’t wait to go to the palace and meet the Queen to receive the medal, although I’m really nervous about it.

On the sniper that came close to taking his life, Rifleman Wilson said there were no hard feelings: “You have got to respect your enemy,” he explained.

“I have no special hate. I would have done exactly the same, except I wouldn’t have missed. It was a bloody good shot though.”