THE circumstances surrounding the death of a soldier killed in an attack in Afghanistan were heard on the opening day of an inquest.
Wrexham Guardsman Jamie Shadrake was killed during a one-minute raid by Afghan insurgents on the Haji Shamo military compound in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
An inquest held at County Hall, Ruthin, by North Wales East and Central Coroner John Gittins investigated the circumstances surrounding the assault and Guardsman Shadrake’s death throughout the day on Monday.
The inquest was attended by the guardsman’s older brother Carl Shadrake and mother Cathryn Griffiths.
The soldier died due to head wounds after the sentry post he was holding was fired upon in an attack carried out at about 4pm on August 17, 2012 – just days after his 20th birthday.
Insurgents shot at Guardsman Shadrake from about 40 meters away as he guarded a road known to British forces as the Pink Route, which led to a ferry crossing across a tributary of the Helmand River south of the Haji Shamo base.
They carried out the attack with small arms fire, hand grenades and propelled grenades.
After killing the soldier, Taliban fighters were able to take a multi-purpose machine gun from his sentry post, along with his personal arms.
Eyewitnesses say that the attackers had also approached the main gate in to the compound, but had to retreat from counter-attack.
Captain Michael Dobbin, who was in charge of Haji Shamo at the time of the assault, described the assault as a “fierce” effort which lasted no longer than one minute.
The attack came just days after an assault on a larger base at Narquil on August 14.
Major Piers Ashfield, who was in charge at the main base in Narquil, said he had received intelligence from an Afghan informant of the impending attack via mobile phone just as the attack was breaking.
He added that the unit had been in the region as part the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in an operation to force the Taliban to focus its efforts on fighting in the rural, irrigated region, rather than attacks on population centres.
Sgt Vandel Mclean told the inquest that he had been in the operations room at Haji Shamo when its southern wall was shaken by grenade attacks, and had called for troops to stand to.
The coroner said there had been “discrepancies” between some recollections of the attack, and also questioned whether more could have been done to guard the ferry crossing across the nearby tributary – which Guardsman Shadrake’s attackers would have used to approach the base.
Captain Dobbin answered that the ferry was occasionally watched by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) but the unit had instead focused on a vehicle check point (VCP) further north of the base.
Intelligence officer Capt Alexander Bayliss said the attack could have been carried out by lower-ranking insurgents as a show of strength against British forces.
Capt Bayliss said: “They wanted to show they could attack ISAF and get away with it, and show ‘Look what we can do – we can steal their weapons and there’s nothing they can do to stop us.”
Elliot Hennell, a friend of Guardsman Shadrake and now a civilian, said he had been exchanging guard duties at another sentry post when the attack took place.
The inquest was due to continue at County Hall today.
l Born in West Bromwich in August 1992, Guardsman Shadrake was raised in Cardiff and his family later moved to Wrexham.
He joined the army at the age of 17 in 2009, and in 2010, followed his older brother Carl in to the Queen’s Company of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
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