British Soldiers in Afghanistan Counterattacked a Taliban Ambush with a Bayonet Charge

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Cpl. Sean Jones, MC serving in Afghanistan with the British Army. (@SeanJonesMC via Twitter)

In even the most dire of circumstances, a well-timed and well-placed bayonet charge can change the course of a battle.

American troops captured the fortifications at Stony Point from the British using only bayonets during the Revolutionary War. The outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg might have been decided with the bayonet charge from Little Round Top. World War II and the Korean War saw their share of bayonet charges win the day.

While it is common to hear stories of soldiers fixing bayonets in the days of yore, it might come as a surprise to hear about a bayonet charge in Afghanistan using modern SA80 semi-automatic rifles.

Cpl. Sean Jones was leading a patrol of members of 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, through Karakan, a village in Afghanistan's Helmand Province in October 2011. Their mission was to draw out a team of Taliban insurgents who were responsible for building and placing improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

As the unit moved into an open field, they crossed a ditch on their way back to a checkpoint. As Jones emerged from the ditch, the Taliban sprang their trap. When the shooting started, he threw himself to the ground.

The British soldiers were caught in a kill zone with fire coming from three directions. They took cover in the nearby ditch, but the Taliban fighters drew closer even as they returned fire.

"We had to react quickly," Jones said in a statement from the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence. "There was something different about this. It was obviously a well-planned ambush and they overwhelmed us with fire from three points initially."

To throw the ambush off-balance, the British soldiers fired a rocket at one of the enemy positions. Jones then ordered three of his soldiers to fix bayonets. The four went over the top of the ditch as the troops still in the ditch with their platoon commander provided suppressive fire.

They charged across 260 feet of open field, toward the village, as it was sprayed by enemy fire. The charge caught the Taliban fighters off-guard, and one of the enemy positions began to fall back. The others were still firing on the British troops remaining in the ditch.

Jones launched a second assault on another enemy-held position. What started as a carefully planned ambush turned into a decisive rout for the Taliban. The rest of the platoon was soon able to join Jones' detachment.

For his audacious bayonet charge, Jones received the Military Cross, the U.K.'s third-highest award for gallantry in combat, from Prince Charles. According to his Military Cross citation, the British troops in Karakan were under heavy fire for 29 minutes.

That deployment was Jones' third to Afghanistan. Earlier, he had complained about serious nightmares and other telltale symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, leading to a 2009 diagnosis for the condition.

(@SeanJonesMC via Twitter)

That diagnosis caused controversy in the United Kingdom in 2017, when he revealed the Ministry of Defence knew he had PTSD, but failed to reveal his condition to him. They even deployed him to Afghanistan again in 2011, while aware of his mental state.

Jones spoke out about the situation when he discovered his hidden diagnosis. As a Military Cross recipient, he is one of the more high-profile veterans in the U.K. and has become a vocal mental health advocate, speaking publicly about his anger issues, nightmares, flashbacks and excessive drinking. Follow him on Twitter.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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