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    'Extraordinary heroism' of helicopter rescue bid

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    Four Royal Marines flew into a battle zone clinging to the outside of helicopter gunships in a bid to rescue a fallen comrade, the Ministry of Defence has revealed.

    L/Cpl Ford: Comrades did not know he had been killed

    Unwilling to leave behind one of their number following a retreat, the commandos strapped themselves to the small stabiliser wings of two Apache helicopters and returned into the midst of a fierce gunfight with the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

    Details of the unprecedented rescue attempt were revealed as the MoD pieced together the final hours of fallen hero L/Cpl Matthew Ford.

    L/Cpl Ford, 30, of 45 Commando Royal Marines, took part in a 200-soldier assault on a Taliban fort in Helmand province.

    Following an intense gun and mortar battle, the commandos were forced back. When they realised L/Cpl Ford was missing, four soldiers volunteered to return.

    Three Apaches were available for the mission, but the 200mph helicopters have no room inside for passengers. The soldiers made the snap decision to travel on the outside of two of the armour-plated aircraft, with a third helicopter providing covering fire.

    The men flew right back into the gun battle, landing both inside and outside the enemy fort in the search for L/Cpl Ford.

    They eventually found and retrieved the body of the section leader who had been killed by enemy fire.

    The unnamed soldiers won high praise for the rescue attempt and for managing to return L/Cpl Ford?s body to base.

    L/Col Rory Bruce, a UK Task Force spokesman, said the heroic mission had been a ?leap into the unknown?.

    ?This is believed to be the first time UK forces have ever tried this type of rescue mission,? he said.

    An Apache helicopter similar to the ones used in the rescue mission in Helmand

    ?It was an extraordinary tale of heroism and bravery of our airmen, soldiers and marines who were all prepared to put themselves back into the line of fire to rescue a fallen comrade.

    ?And it was with great sadness they later found their brother-in-arms had been killed in action.?

    L/Cpl Ford was the only fatality sustained by the UK Task Force during the battle on Monday. Four men were injured and are in a stable condition.

    Friends and family yesterday paid tribute to ?gentle giant? L/Cpl Ford, who had recently been thinking about leaving the service to settle down with a family.

    His mother Joan, who lives at the family home in Immingham, Lincolnshire, said: ?We are all devastated by the news of Mathew?s death. He was a larger than life character who lived his life to the full.

    ?He was a wonderful son to me and brother to Thomas and Scott and was looking forward to his future with Ina [his fiancee]. His love for life and his ability to make everyone laugh will always be with us.?

    L/Cpl Ford joined the Royal Marines in 2001. After training in Lympstone, Devon, where he earned the coveted Green Beret. L/Cpl Ford's commanding officer Lt Col Duncan Dewar RM said the serviceman?s ?professionalism, reliability, and selflessness as well as his sharp wit marked him out from the crowd?.


    What a heroic action! May he rest in peace!

    Edited by Herr General
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