West Royal Marine awarded Military Cross for bravery
A Westcountry-based Royal Marine who won the Military Cross for outstanding bravery has spoken of how he beat remarkable odds to avoid "the ultimate soldier's nightmare" of shooting one of his colleagues in the fog of battle.
Marine Craig Buchanan, 26, was part of an eight-man patrol in Nahri Saraj, Helmand Province, in October last year, tasked with training Afghans around the grounds of a police station.
The Marine, who lives in Somerset but was born in Zimbabwe, was with his men in a small field surrounded by high walls and hedge lines when a rogue member of the Afghan Uniformed Police, dressed in 'civvies', opened fire, hitting his comrades.
The bursts of automatic fire, which were zipping in from just 100ft away, killed two patrol members and wounded one of the Marine's close friends, who he was standing next to.
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Marine Buchanan was unable to return fire for fear of hitting a colleague and he quickly became the only uninjured patrol member to remain standing.
Putting his life on the line for others, he rushed forward to stand between the assassin and his men and returned fire confident he would not hit his colleagues.
The gunman continued to come forward blasting off more rounds – but the Royal Marine shot him dead.
His citation reads: "Buchanan's quick thinking and bravery saved lives and prevented a difficult situation from escalating. His exemplary gallantry is an inspiration to others."
Marine Buchanan, who is now based at the CommandoTraining Centre, Lympstone, said entering the danger zone the "atmospherics were different" and he could tell something was wrong.
He could not see where to shoot because the incoming fire was kicking up dirt and dust.
"I thought I knew where the attacker was but I couldn't get off a clear shot. It was a tough decision to make," he said.
"The last thing you want is a blue-on-blue [hitting a comrade], you don't want to go down as the bloke who shot one of his mates. It's every soldier's worst nightmare."
He was among several Royal Marines from 40 Commando, based at Taunton, to be recognised with honours.
Lieutenant – now Acting Captain – Owen Davis received the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and Corporal John Watson was awarded a Bar to the Military Cross he won in 2009.
Colour Sergeant Samuel McCormick and Marine Harry Robinson also received the Military Cross.
Their commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Jackson received the Distinguished Service Order.