88 British troops fought off 500 Taliban for months without support

Daily Mail:
Outgunned, outmanoeuvred, hopelessly outnumbered and besieged in the Afghan desert, a small band of British soldiers chose to save a final bullet for themselves rather than fall into Taliban hands.

For nearly two months, the 88 men of Easy Company – a mix of Paratroopers and the Royal Irish – had faced the overwhelming force and firepower of up to 500 Taliban determined to over-run the remote Helmand outpost of Musa Qala.

And their near miraculous survival has been described as a latter day Rorke’s Drift, evocative of the 1879 siege in which 140 British soldiers held off a Zulu force of 3,000, later immortalised in the blockbuster film starring Michael Caine.

For 56 days in the autumn of 2006, the men at Musa Qala faced constant fire from fixed machine gun posts and mortars.

Hungry and frequently at the point of exhaustion, they were forced to somehow fend off 360-degree attacks from the Taliban, with little protection beyond a series of low mud walls.

They used up a quarter of all the British Army’s Afghan ammunition for that entire year.

Yet today their heroism remains little known, not least because the Ministry of Defence has never permitted the full story of what happened there ten years ago this month to be told.
They lost three men and saw 12 badly wounded before a ragged ceasefire was brokered by tribal elders, allowing them to evacuate their Helmand hell-hole. As with Rorke’s Drift, the final, devastating assault somehow never came.

Their ordeal began almost immediately when, on August 23, Easy Company was dropped by Chinook to replace a mainly Danish Nato contingent struggling to bring stability and security to the remote region. It was a terrible start.

The Taliban watched in satisfaction as the Danes took with them more than 40 armoured vehicles, eight heavy machine guns and a 12-strong medical team with armoured ambulances.

Their British replacements had just two heavy machine guns, one doctor, two medics and a quad bike. When Taliban spies reported the huge reduction in armour and weaponry, the terror leaders scented an easy victory.

To make matters worse, the village was often too dangerous for helicopter support, and reinforcements – although it is still not entirely clear why – simply never came.
There is much more.

They survived when the village elders were able to negotiate a truce and provide cattle trucks to take the British troops to a position where they could board choppers.  The battle happened about 10 years ago.  There was not much fanfare about their heroism because to do so would have highlighted who poorly they were supported and resourced.

The movie referred to above is called Zulu.  It is one of my favorite war movies.  If you haven't seen it, it is worth a look.


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