About 15 miles south of al-Amara by the city of Basra in Iraq, 20 British troops were on their way to help one of the other units that had fallen under fire. However, they were not quite prepared for what lay ahead of them.
The British troops frequently dealt with ambushes from Shia militias to the tune of five attacks a day in Basra. When they attempted to arrest Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the locals did not take it well. Violence escalated.
Troops saw around 300 attacks in the matter of three months. According to Sgt. Brian Wood they were “constantly under attack.”
“If mortars weren’t coming into our base, then we were dragged out into the city to help other units under fire.”Sgt. Brian Wood
Wood and other members of the 1st Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment were heading to help Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders under attack from 100 militiamen. The Militiamen were from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
On their way, Woods and his team hit an IED. The ambush hit two vehicles with 20 members of the unit inside. The vehicles were assaulted by mortars, rockets, and machine guns.
Getting Through the Ambush
Instead of trying to push through the ambush, the British vehicles decided to stop. Unfortunately, many of the vehicles had already taken on heavy fire and were a little worse for wear.
The troops set up a perimeter and called for backup as their ammunition was running low. In a quick decision, the British decided to use bayonets.
The enemy was 600 feet away. The British soldiers ran across the open area to reach them. They bayoneted 20 of the militia members once they reached the Mahdi fighter.
Coming Out On Top
They fought in hand-to-hand combat for five hours. The British only sustained three injuries.
“We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry. It’s only afterwards you think, ‘Jesus, I actually did that.’ “Pvt. Anthony Rushforth to The Sun
By the end, 28 militiamen were killed, while the British still only had three injuries. Jihadi propaganda had been circulated telling militias that the Westerners would run from hand-to-hand combat and ambushes.
These British soldiers quickly debunked that theory with their fierce defense of their position and unconventional tactics. Even though the militia had the element of surprise and sheer numbers, they were outsmarted by these impressive soldiers.