A war veteran from Battle has been reunited with the soldier who saved his life during the conflict in Afghanistan.
Martyn Compton met with Corporal of Horse (CoH) Andrew Radford this week.
I may not have the life I once had, but I have a good life – and I make sure I live it every day as I know I was the lucky one. Racing has given me a new focus in life, I want to inspire others, I’m still young and I still have so much to offer. I aim to set an example that even though life can throw you adversity, nothing should stop you from following a dream.
The serving soldier ran through a hail of bullets in order to carry Martyn to safety.
The rescue came about when CoH Radford spotted a huddled figure 70 metres away from his position. The Taliban had staged an ambush in Helmand Province, which had killed three of his comrades in an IED explosion and left the rest facing a hail of grenades, mortar bombs and machine gun fire.
CoH Radford thought the figure was an insurgent and was about to pull the trigger when he realised it was Lance Corporal (LCpl) Martyn Compton.
Miraculously, Martyn had survived the roadside bomb, then two rocket propelled grenades which blew his Spartan vehicle apart, killing everyone else inside, before he dragged himself, burned almost beyond recognition, through the ambush.
It led CoH Radford of the Household Cavalry, the Life Guards, to undertake his heroic rescue, one which led to him being awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.
To mark the 10-year anniversary, CoH Radford reunited with Martyn, known as Compo, his wife Michelle, 36, and their two children Archie, five, and four-year-old Coral so they could express their profound gratitude.
CoH Radford said: “Martyn’s survival is miraculous, as he came so close to death, not once but four times. I never thought he could possibly live after the horror he went through. But you never leave one of your own behind. That’s unthinkable. To see how he has rebuilt his life with his family is just wonderful.”
Martyn said: “If it wasn’t for Andrew I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be married to Michelle and I wouldn’t have my beautiful children. While Andrew may have been just about to shoot me, I’m grateful that happened, as the reality is, if he and his commanding officer hadn’t been looking down their rifle sights, they would never have seen me in time and I’d have died there that day.
“The words ‘thank you’ are so inadequate, it just isn’t enough to express the depth of my gratitude that he saved me.”
CoH Radford had set off on July 31, 2006 just two weeks into a six-month tour of duty, as part of a convoy of seven vehicles, dispatched to help give support to Danish Forces and a Pathfinder Platoon who were trapped in the now notorious siege of Musa Qala.
As they approached a small town, a short distance from Musa Qala, LCpl Compton’s Spartan armoured vehicle overtook his Scimitar, becoming the second in the convoy. Seconds later they hit the ambush.
The first vehicle, containing three men was hit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) which became impaled, unexploded in their external armoury. When a second RPG hit seconds later, while the vehicle withstood the blast, they were left stranded.
The second vehicle in the convoy, containing Martyn, and three colleagues was not so fortunate.
Martyn said: “Too many Taliban to count, armed with machine guns and RPGs came over the walls on both sides and as I reversed backwards from the ambush an IED was detonated beneath us using a command wire. There was a massive bang, the wagon shot forward, then my ears were ringing and I was surrounded by smoke and flames.”
The three other occupants of the vehicle, 27-year-old Lance-Corporal Ross Nicholls, Captain Alex Eida, 29, and Lieutenant Ralph Johnson, 24, were killed instantly.
Martyn said: “I immediately knew they were all gone as no one was answered on the end of their mikes. I felt a wave of emotion and in the next second I saw an RPG flying toward me. I ducked through instinct, a futile act as when it hit the engine block of the vehicle I was engulfed in flames. A second RPG then hit the upper deck which collapsed and I ended up sat in the open. Fire was everywhere. I started climbing out, as my survival instinct took over, not even comprehending that I’d suffered third degree burns to 75 per cent of my body, my kit had melted into my skin and the rest of my clothes were just rags.
“I just remember bullets flying around me and I was shot twice in my leg. I crawled as far as I could from the remains of the vehicle, and when I managed to reach a low wall I lay there. Martyn’s vehicle was an inferno.”
In the aftermath, and under fire CoH Radford and Captain Long laid down small arms fire using their rifles in order to help their three comrades from the first vehicle to escape.
CoH Radford said: “I saw a figure around 70 metres away and I was literally about to shoot him when Captain Long said: “Is that Compo?”. He was so terribly disfigured you could barely tell it was him – but in the milliseconds before I’d fired he’d seen him wave towards us.
“In that second it took me to lower my rifle, I knew I was going to go and get him.”
As CoH Radford prepared to climb out of the top of his vehicle, sniper fire sprayed the wall to his left.
He also had to pass twice through the ‘killing zone’ of the ambush. He said: “The guys in the vehicle behind me, spotted the sniper and took him out. They saved my life. As I got out of the vehicle there was a lot of fire and I wasn’t too optimistic that I was going to come back, but I felt it was better to try. I couldn’t contemplate not doing anything.
“I was so transfixed on getting to Martyn that apart from firing my own rifle as I moved forwards, everything else faded out. All I could hear was the sound of my own heart beat and my rifle.”
As he ran through the killing zone, past Martyn’s vehicle, the driver and gunner of the lead vehicle in the convoy ran through the flames towards him and asked what he was doing.
As soon as they realised the rescue mission, they gave CoH Radford covering fire.
CoH Radford said: “As I got to Compo he was as bad as you could ever imagine and I didn’t think he could possibly live.
“As I picked him up his armpits fell away into my hands, and even despite the 40 degree heat, his skin was so hot to the touch as he was horribly burned. My only memory is jumping across an irrigation ditch, then passing the two guys who had given covering fire and then all four of us ran together back to the vehicle.”
Upon completion of his six-month tour, CoH Radford was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross at Buckingham Palace by the Queen.
Following his medical discharge in 2014 Martyn has now launched a career as a racing driver with his new company Martyn Compton Racing and is looking for sponsorship. He and fellow veteran Mark Allen, a double amputee, aim to become the first disabled veterans to compete at the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hour Race.
Martyn said: “I may not have the life I once had, but I have a good life – and I make sure I live it every day as I know I was the lucky one. To my mind to do anything else would not honour the memory of my colleagues who didn’t come home that day. Racing has given me a new focus in life, I want to inspire others, I’m still young and I still have so much to offer.
“I aim to set an example that even though life can throw you adversity, nothing should stop you from following a dream.”
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