Shot in the head by Taleban sniper, but soldier kept firing

Scarring on Craig Paterson's head as he recovered. Picture: Deadline
Scarring on Craig Paterson's head as he recovered. Picture: Deadline
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A SCOTTISH soldier continued to fire at the Taleban after being shot in the head by a sniper during a gun battle.

Craig Paterson, 22, a sharpshooter with the 4 Scots the Royal Regiment of Scotland, was critically wounded in July last year in a battle with insurgents in the war-torn province of Helmand in Afghanistan.

Sniper bullet punched straight through Craig Paterson's helmet in firefight (Deadline)

Sniper bullet punched straight through Craig Paterson's helmet in firefight (Deadline)

He was shot in the head as he manned a rooftop gun position in a compound that came under heavy fire from the Taleban.

Michelle Ping, a Royal Navy reservist who braved a hail of enemy fire to save the life of Private Paterson, was mentioned in despatches in recognition of her courageous action.

According to Ms Ping’s citation, she “undoubtedly saved the life of the Highlander” by climbing on to the exposed roof under heavy fire to deliberately shield the casualty with her body and administer first aid.

Pte Paterson said: “We were on an operation and had been dropped in the middle of nowhere. The platoon commander had decided it was too hot to carry on because the heat was unbearable at that point, and we entered a nearby compound and, because I was a sharpshooter, I was put on the roof.

Sniper bullet punched straight through Craig Paterson's helmet in firefight (Deadline)

Sniper bullet punched straight through Craig Paterson's helmet in firefight (Deadline)

“We got into a firefight and a couple of the boys came up to help me as we came under suppressing fire from both machine guns and a sniper. We couldn’t move, and I tried to find the sniper. I put my head up but the sniper was zeroing in on my head and he got me.

“The bullet went right through my helmet. I don’t know what I did after I got shot but the guys who were with me said I was trying to keep on shooting.”

Praising Ms Ping, he said: “When she got on the roof, everybody around her said I was dead. But she just looked at my eyes and shook me and shouted at me and got me back. She saved my life.”

Despite being left with severe weakness to the right side of his body, the Highlander, from Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, plans to cycle 500 miles to raise to funds for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) to thank the charity for the help his family and girlfriend Louise Dalgarno received as he was treated for his severe head injuries in Britain.

Sniper bullet punched straight through Craig Paterson's helmet in firefight (Deadline)

Sniper bullet punched straight through Craig Paterson's helmet in firefight (Deadline)

Pte Paterson has signed up to take part in the five-day Ride of Britain event in September, when he will cycle on his recumbent bike the 510 miles from Edinburgh to London.

Pte Paterson, who had a titanium plate inserted in his head, spent three days in an induced coma, then a month in hospital after being flown back to the UK. He was then transferred to a military rehabilitation unit in Surrey for seven months. A piece from the top of his skull was removed which Craig keeps in an envelope in his home as his war souvenir.

He said: “My right arm is pretty much useless and so is my right hand. I have to put special strapping on my right leg and I have extended ankle support so walking is difficult. But the goal is to cycle to London in five days.

“It’s another challenge but I’m determined to do it to help the SSAFA. They provided accommodation which allowed my family to be close to me throughout my time in hospital and rehabilitation. The help and support they gave to my family and my girlfriend was tremendous and I want to give something back.”

He added: “SSAFA’s aim is for 100 guys to take part in the cycle ride. We are all going to cycle the whole way.”