All Blogposts contain only personal views and are published in an entirely personal capacity. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment unless I have refused to delete the comment following a valid complaint. Any complaint must set out the grounds for the deletion of the comment. I also reserve the right to delete comments that - in my opinion, are offensive or make unsubstatiated accusations against persons or groups. Like the BBC, this Blog is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. (with thanks to Valleys Mam's blog where I nicked most of this from).


11 Oct 2011

Building Bridges

 "a small bridge in the middle of a rather insignificant little town"

Last week on 04 October,  the name of a small bridge in the middle of a rather insignificant little town in the Balkans held a ceremony in honour of an incident that happened 18 years before. The occasion was to re-name it as the 'Lance Corporal Wayne Edwards Bridge'.  The town was Gornji Vakuf in Central Bosnia and the occasion they were commemorating and honouring was Wayne's tragic death on 13th Janury 1993.

Wayne was a Lance Corporal (LCpl) from the North Wales Infantry Regiment 1RWF*.  Wrecsam was his home town where his mother and family lived.  He was attached to B Company, 1CHESHIRE in the capacity of Warrior ICV manning increment (AIMI) and I had the privilage of being in the same Company alongside him as senior mortar fire controller/information collater.

WARRIOR Infantry Combat Vehicle
A magnificent piece of equipment and the best ICV on earth.
We actually wrote to the GKN factory at the end of our tour thanking them
and some of the troops went to thank the construction workers personally.
Once again, thank you.  You have no idea about how good your work is.

A week or so before his death serious fighting had broken out within and around the town between the Bosnian Croats who had tried to seize the town to gain control of the highway and thus control the access into the deep centre of Bosnia and their nominal allies the resident Bosnian muslims.  Wayne had bravely volunteered to drive a Warrior escort vehicle to get a muslim woman who was having a breach birth through the front lines and to a hospital.   As he was driving his vehicle across the bridge in the centre of town - which was the front line,  a Bosnian Croat HVO militia man fired a burst of AK47 fire at a group of Bosnian Muslim Armija that were near the vehicle.  One of the rounds hit him just under the eye passing straight through his head causing catastrophic damage and killing him instantly. His vehicle then slewed off the bridge and was hanging over the edge trapping the crew and section inside. It was a terrible day for everyone involved - absolute chaos. We were stuck in the middle of a major battle involving over 5000 combatants ( & which had absolutely nothing to do with us) in an area the size of Holyhead, with tank, rocket, artillery and mortar fire flying everywhere.  There were dead bodies lying in the streets, snipers all over the place, streams of panic-stricken civilians trying to get out and to cap it all we now had a man down and a section trapped.    (I later had to help one young soldier wash the blood and gore off himself because he had literally ceased to function)..  This would necessitate a major operation to recover his body,  the rest of the section, and the Warrior armoured vehicle all to be carried out whilst under fire.   The Bosnian Muslim Armija at one stage, without propmpting,  even  put down covering fire to occupy the Bosnian Croats who were trying to get the bridge so that they could take our vehicle as it was superior to anything in their armoury.

And so,  last week,  with Wayne's sister and our former Commanding Officer and now Tory MP Col Bob Stewart DSO in attendance the bridge was re-named.   A short clip from the Forces TV station BFBS can be seen here:-


Col Bob Stewart's line about the recovery of his body being a minute doesn't tell the whole story, understating an extremly dangerous hour with many acts of selflessness and an iron determination that Wayne,  his section and his vehicle would all be recovered no matter what and no-one and nothing would stop us.  Yes it was a minute - once we had winched the vehicle back on to the bridge,  then got the soldiers in the fighting compartment out, then dragged his body back from the driver's compartment through the escape tunnel.   In reality it took the best part of an hour.  We had to form an armoured column,  clear a path 1600 metres from our base to the bridge.  Storm the bridge and form a fire line on the far-side,  bring forward an armoured recovery vehicle, winch the Warrior back onto the bridge and then bring forward the medical team.    The bravest man that day was a REME mechanic called Reg.  Under heavy fire, he climbed out of the recovery vehicle and connected up the steel hausers.  While he was on the roof of his recovery vehicle Bosnian Croats were firing at him and he had rounds literally ricocheting round his feet. 

'Reg' the REME Recovery Mechanic
(Copyright David Rowlands)

In addition a small marble monument was placed on the bridge a month or so after he died.  The people of Wrecsam also paid for a dove cote and a flock of white doves (symbolising peace) to be built in Wrecsam.

(*RWF - Royal Welch Fusiliers, 23rd of Foot, who were the North Wales Infantry Regiment.  Now 1st Bn The Royal Welsh following their amalgamation with the  Royal Regiment of Wales in 2006 to form a single Welsh regiment covering all of Wales.  Currently based at the Dale Bks in Chester)


Robert Owen South Wales Borderers. said...

A warriors passing becomes so proud when his nations flag becomes his shroud. The Welsh have always shown great bravery and so mutch caring and humility in wars that have not been of their making.
Yet again a nation far from ours shows respect to a Welsh warrior who has show himself to be a caring human being and not an instrument of his political masters.

Robert said...

Sadly wars will be with us while politician are allowed. but this one war out of the many had to be fought.

But the chap is dead, and once your dead your needs are no,longer the priority, the one who come back severely disabled to be told your fit to work or you OK for a job without those job are being made available.

I love the media who tell us they are hero, the the job center will tell you your a x zero, the uniform makes you a hero take it off your just one of the many deemed a scrounger.

The Informer said...

He was a good man. RIP Wayne.

LesAbbey said...

A moving story.

mensajes claro said...

RIP Wayne.

Baldrick said...

hi, it's Reg the Recovery mechanic here, though my name is not actually Reg. I remember that day well & my thoughts and prayers are with Wayne and his family often. Arte et Marte

The Red Flag said...

Reg it's me - andy red willy williams. E mail me at admin@savepenrhos.co.uk and I'll put you in touch with the regimental facebook pages and people that were in 1CHESHIRE at the time such as Nav & Shez.