Victoria Cross: Warrior Killed By Friendly Fire, A Tragic End for a Hardened Fighter Who Was 5 days From Going Home

British Military talking with local Afghan forces in Afghanistan
British Military talking with local Afghan forces in Afghanistan

The Victoria Cross is the United Kingdom’s highest military honor and one of the most esteemed recognitions for gallantry in combat in the global military community.  And yet, for many recipients they are never aware of the fact they received it as the action which did so often costs them their life.

Such was the case for British PARA Corporal Bryan Budd, who selflessly gave his life in Afghanistan leading a one-man charge to relieve his battered troops from heavy Taliban fire.  Scheduled to go home in 5 days, one might assume he would only have eyes for returning to his family, but the actions of Budd ensured others could go home in his stead.

For it would seem this 10-year Veteran of the British military couldn’t help but live up to the reputation of the PARA and fight until the very end, even if that included falling a week before he went home to his wife and child.  His is the kind of story that makes you lament the fallen, but as the saying goes remains thankful that such men lived.

A Professional Soldier

Born in 1977 Belfast, Budd knew early on that he wanted to be a soldier and took his first opportunity to join best.  In 1996, Bryan Budd joined the Parachute Regiment of the British Army to be a part of the elite who would lead the way into war.  Not content with just being a PARA, he took the road less traveled and passed the necessary tests to become part of the 16 Air Assault Brigade’s Pathfinder Platoon.

Designed to conduct reconnaissance deep behind enemy lines, the Pathfinders would lead the way into combat allowing Budd to conduct operations in the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Macedonia, Iraq and finally Afghanistan.

In 2006, he joined 3 PARA as part of a large British task force headed to Helmand Province Afghanistan.  Helmand was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the war during this time frame, and the city of Sangin would be the epicenter of it all.  The Taliban had grown increasingly accustomed to Western military intervention had adapted tactics to make themselves a more aggressive and resilient opponent.

Whereas in engagements of earlier years, the Taliban would often engage from afar, they had now become unafraid to take the fight up close to western powers and compete for the occupation of rural Afghanistan. And for Bryan Budd’s final engagement, that would mean meters away in field head high full of corn.

Bryan Budd. Photo credit – Fair Use
Bryan Budd. Photo credit – Fair Use

His Victoria Cross citation would actually reference two incidents, one coming on July 27th, 2006.  When his section became engaged with multiple Taliban firing down from a rooftop, several British PARAs were injured and in need of evacuation.

Realizing that the suppressing fire made that impossible, Budd stood up while exposed to heavy fire and charged the building.  His assault on the building caused the Taliban to flee across an open field where they were given an instruction on British marksmanship.  Budd’s action allowed his colleagues to be evacuated and would be the first of two inexplicably gallant actions.

British Land Rovers patrol Sangin.
British Land Rovers patrol Sangin.

5 Days from Home

While deployment dates can often change at the last minute, it was reported that Budd was scheduled to return home on August 25th, 2006.  However, on August 20th, he was in the town of Sangin where his unit was tasked with defending a remote outpost.  Due to its location, it was targeted almost daily by the Taliban and required a stiff defense to include frequent patrols around the perimeter.

On one such patrol, Budd was leading his men on patrol through thick vegetation which consisted of corn the height of a person. Despite limited visibility, Budd noticed a large number Taliban approximately 30 meters ahead of him.  Attempting to maintain the element of surprise, Budd initiated a flanking maneuver intended to destroy the enemy.

However, when the Taliban noticed a mobile patrol nearby, the element of surprise was lost and a vicious firefight ensued.  With three of his men wounded, Budd once again recognized the need to regain the initiative and pressed forward with the attack alone.

He rushed through the corn and assaulted the enemy up close.  Despite being wounded in the firefight, he continued the assault giving his men the cover needed to reorganize.  As a result of his assault, the Taliban was silenced, and the wounded were allowed to evacuate.

However, there was no sign of Corporal Budd as his unit withdrew.  He was initially listed as missing in action while a quick reaction force was assembled to search for him.  As the reactionary forces pushed through the vegetation while air power beat back the Taliban, Budd’s body was discovered lying in the field next to three dead Taliban.

A Tragic End for a Hardened Fighter

For his actions on August 20th and a few days prior, Corporal Bryan Budd was awarded the Victoria Cross and would be one of less than 20 to receive such an award since the end of World War 2.  A subsequent examination might have proven that that the fatal shot to Budd came from a 5.56 NATO weapon which indicated friendly fire, but that only occurred because he saw fit to close with and destroy the enemy.

On not one, but two occasion Corporal Bryan of the British PARA deemed it advisable to counter-attack and gift violence to the enemy rather than receive and the truth is that he sum of military history proves him the wiser. An unexpected counter-attack disrupts enemy momentum but often at great cost to those who pursue it.

Bryan Budd will rest in the hall of history that recognizes him as a warrior who understood that a battle if is fought one moment at a time with little disregard for when you might be going home.

If it is indeed the case that Budd would have been home with his family in 5 days when he gave his life for his fellow men, then history owes him the recognition for such a feat.

Jeff Edwards

Jeff Edwards is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE