Barnstaple soldier shot in head to save girl

Joseph Bulmer

Heroic rifleman confronts Taleban using 10-year-old as human shield

A Barnstaple soldier has taken a bullet in the head to save the life of a small child in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Craig “Murf” Murfitt was described as having “nerves of steel” after facing down a suspected Taleban insurgent in Helmand who had grabbed a 10-year-old local child to use as a human shield.

Fearing he would hit the girl if he fired, Murf – a rifleman and medic with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment - held his ground, enabling his opponent to fire a single shot which struck him in the side of the head.

Luckily his Mark 7 Combat Helmet took the force of the bullet and saved his life, leaving him dazed but otherwise unharmed.

The child seized to opportunity to escape and the gunners aboard the supporting Warthog armoured vehicles soon accounted for the gunman.

The 25-year-old Barnstaple man explained how a routine patrol had swiftly heated up after they were called to support infantry colleagues who had become pinned down by enemy fire.

“Our arrival, with our heavy firepower, seemed to bring the fight to an end fairly quickly, but we stayed alert. Everything was quiet, but then I spotted three men with a child on a compound roof, about 300 yards to the front of the vehicles,” he said.

“Suddenly two of the men moved off, leaving one man with the child – it was a girl, no more than 10-years-old. At this point I realised something was wrong - the man picked up a rifle and moved behind the child, taking aim at me.

“I knew I could take him down but, being a dad myself, I didn’t want to run the risk of killing a kid and undoing all the good work we’ve achieved. So I waited, hoping the child would drop down and give me a clear shot.”

When the gunman fired Murf was knocked from his feet, but still managed to signal to his comrades where the insurgent was.

“I felt the dent in my helmet and said to the others ‘I’ve been shot in the head but I’m fine.’ I tried to stand up but I had disco legs and just had to sit down again for a bit!” he said.

Following the incident he was soon back out on patrol again with his comrades.

It is LCpl Murfitt’s second visit to Afghanistan and he says as a medic as well as a rifleman he enjoys helping locals by providing first aid to them, as well as playing his part in bringing about improved security in their communities.

He is looking forward to returning home to Barnstaple when his tour ends next year, to join his baby son Finlay and wife Erica who also serves in the British Army, with 32 Regiment, Royal Artillery.