Convoy rescue put TA skills to the test

IT'S the news every soldier dreads - a colleague has been seriously injured in the line of duty.

Grant Sherlock

IT'S the news every soldier dreads - a colleague has been seriously injured in the line of duty. In his latest report on the efforts of Suffolk troops in Basra, the Evening Star's chief reporter tells how one soldier reacted when it mattered.

AN army radio operator who grew up in Stowmarket was behind the controls marshalling the rescue effort when a Grundisburgh soldier was wounded in Iraq, it has emerged.

Lance Corporal Laura “Lolly” Miller, a former Stowmarket Middle School and Stowmarket High School pupil, is serving alongside 18-year-old Matthew Finch in Iraq.

The Territorial Army soldiers are part of East Anglia's 158 Transport Regiment, which has its 202 Transport Squadron based at Yarmouth Road, Ipswich.

As reported in The Evening Star last month, Private Finch suffered a serious injury in a freak accident in the back of an army Snatch Land Rover as it travelled from the US army's KSF base in northern Kuwait to the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

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While fixing a problem with his weapon, Pte Finch snagged a mini flare hooked into his body armour, setting it off.

The flare fired upwards into his chin, embedding itself and leaving him bleeding and needing urgent medical care.

As the emergency unfolded the convoy of army vehicles driven by his fellow soldiers contacted their base, where L Cpl Miller, an army communications specialist, was working the radios.

“When I heard who it was I just said 'it's Finchy' but you don't know what's gone wrong at the time. I called a helicopter in and they went to him,” she said.

“It took about an hour and a half that whole communication until it was dealt with and the adrenalin was certainly pumping.”

Pte Finch was airlifted to the field hospital at the British army's base at Basra airport. He has since made a full recovery and returned to his duties as part of the force protection team responsible for protecting convoys of civilian trucks delivering vital supplies to the 4,500 British troops stationed in and around Basra.

Recalling the night Pte Finch was injured, L Cpl Miller said the rescue effort went smoothly.

“It went really well, everyone played their role perfectly. Finch still being here is a testament to that but at the time it feels like everything is happening at once,” she said.

L Cpl Miller (nee Stewart), an art and design teacher at Kettering High School who now lives in Loughborough, left Stowmarket High in 2000 before going to university in Loughbourgh.

She is married to Lance Corporal Mark Miller, who is also serving in Iraq for the Territorial Army as part of 2 Logistic Support Regiment.

While her husband is stationed in Baghdad, L Cpl Miller now travels on the convoys from Kuwait to Basra and back, keeping the lines of communication open between the vehicles on the road and the battalion headquarters back at base.

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