Soldier tells how he was inches from death on Afghanistan front line

SHOT -- Hucknall soldier Callum Urquhart
SHOT -- Hucknall soldier Callum Urquhart

A VALIANT teenage soldier from Hucknall has spoken exclusively to the Dispatch about the terrifying moment he was gunned down in Afghanistan.

And in a moving, graphic interview, he has lavished praise on the courageous colleagues who saved his life.

Private Callum Urquhart (19), of Nursery Close, is a member of the Army’s world-famous Third Battalion, Parachute Regiment.

He always wanted to serve and follow in the footsteps of his father, Graham Urquhart (50), and grandfather, Barrie Pottinger (70).

But his dream threatened to turn into a nightmare on Sunday March 27 — just three weeks before the end of a six-month tour of duty in the notorious Helmand Province of war-torn Afghanistan.

Callum and a team of comrades were setting up a cordon in a small village after the discovery of an improvised explosive device (IED).

But then he was shot in the leg by a Taliban gunman.

An initial bullet hit a building nearby. But another blasted through the back of Callum’s thigh, ricocheted off his femur bone and broke out through the front of his leg.

He was immediately felled. Blood was pouring from a gaping wound.

“It was nothing like the scene in ‘Forrest Gump’ when he gets shot in Vietnam and says he thought something had bit him!” joked Callum, who signed up to the Army at at the age of 17 and trained at Catterick in north Yorkshire.

“I knew immediately I had been shot. But it was a strange feeling. There was a lot of blood but not as much as I expected. I was lucky the bullet didn’t hit a major artery.

“It was like being hit by a sledgehammer. It could have been curtains.”

Thankfully, his regimental ‘brothers’ lived up to the battalion’s motto of ‘Utrinque Paratus’, which means ‘ready for anything’.

A colleague dragged Callum to cover near a building and immediately applied a tourniquet to stem the bleeding.

A medic out on patrol with the battalion carried out first aid and gave Callum a painkilling shot of morphine.

Then an emergency evacuation team was alerted and arrived on the scene within 12 minutes in a Chinook helicopter. A prone Callum was airlifted to Camp Bastian where he was able to phone his mum, Jane (46), before going into surgery.

Said Jane: “I felt numb. I couldn’t ask anything. When I came off the phone, I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

After initial treatment, Callum was airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where he stayed for two weeks.

He is now back at home on crutches and has started on the long road to recovery with regular physiotherapy.

However fear and regret are not part of Callum’s make-up.

All he is focused on is getting fit and re-joining his battalion and the men who ultimately saved his life.

“I would have gone back the following week if I could,” said Callum, who went to Broomhill Junior and Holgate Comprehensive Schools in Hucknall.

“All I have ever wanted to do was be a soldier and all I ever wanted to do was be in the Parachute Regiment.”

Callum’s battalion is based in Colchester, Essex. But he will soon be heading for the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court in Surrey for intensive treatment.

As well as his highly-trained Army team, Callum reserved special praise for his family and girlfriend of a year, Charlotte Brailsford (17), of St Mary’s Way, Hucknall.

“She has been a massive support,” he said. “Beforehand, while I was out in Afghanistan, also while I was in hospital and now, during my recovery.

“My family have also been brilliant,” added Callum, who has a sister, Lauren (21). “They have never stood in my way.

“They also managed to keep my morale up while I was in Afghanistan by sending out support packages full of my favourites from home — including foods like Dairylea Dunkers!”