Sierra Leone Raid

A Company Group 1 PARA on Spearhead stand-by at the end of August 2000 were warned off to support an SAS operation in Sierra Leone to release British soldiers held hostage by a rebel band called the West Side Boys. They were in Theatre one week after the initial call.

At 0500 on 10th September the force took off in Chinook helicopters to fly low-level along the river system leading to the enemy objectives. By 0615 the assault on Gberi Bana began and the paratroopers were dropped off at a Landing site (LS) south west of Magbeni Village. Tracer was cracking over their heads as they disembarked.

The first two men to step off the tailgate disappeared up to their chests in clinging swamp. Several casualties quickly resulted as the assault got under way. The Company Commander Mathew Lowe, the 2 Platoon commander and L/Cpl. Simon Mclean, Section Commander 2 Section,2 Platoon, A Company 1 Para were wounded alongside their radio operators. Disaster appeared to be looming.

Fortunately the SAS had recovered and lifted off the hostages and helicopter fire support began to neutralise opposition fire. Seconds-in-Command seized the initiative and a rapid attack was pressed ruthlessly home. The West side Boys were overwhelmed by the heavy fire power at the disposal of the company group. Captured enemy heavy weapons and vehicles were blown up with plastic explosives.
Casualties reached the operating theatre aboard the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Sir Perceval within 20 minutes of being wounded. One SAS soldier died and several paratroopers were wounded. The West Side Boys were virtually wiped out and dispersed.

Following a post victory celebration on RFA Argus  the A Company group flew back to the UK two days after the action.

The mission was a success, the hostages were rescued and HM Government had indicated resolve to act decisively in the region; a factor not lost on the opposition. The utility of rapidly deploying a Parachute Company Group to support such emergency interventions was also demonstrated.  


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