The Long Barrier

By skepticlawyer

Someone listened to his cricket coach as a kid

A British soldier has described how he picked up a Taliban hand grenade which landed at his feet and threw it back towards the enemy.

Rifleman James McKie was on a tiny rooftop in Sangin. He and two of his platoon could hear the bullets fired by the Taliban below bouncing off the roof.

The 29-year-old soldier had just finished firing back when the grenade thrown by the insurgents bounced off his platoon commander and landed just a foot away from him.

He heard a small pop, “like a fire-cracker,” before he saw the grenade land.

The young soldier, originally from New Zealand, made a split-second decision that was to save his life and those of his two comrades on that roof. He picked up the grenade, and threw it back.

“I saw the grenade, and my first thought was that I knew I had to get it away from us. And my second was ‘I hope this doesn’t hurt too much’,” he says, with a wry smile.

Obviously well-schooled in forming ‘the long barrier’, Rifleman McKie (who is Kiwi originally) ‘got behind it’, fielded it and threw it back. Who knew that cricketing skills had such a direct military application:

Approach the ball at speed and as you get into line with the ball, twist your upper body, leading with the shoulder furthest from the ball.

Bend both knees, so that the knee of the leg nearest to the ball touches the ground, but it is also next to the back of the heel of the other leg.

With fingers down and head forward, pick up the ball and then stand back up ready to deliver an overarm throw.

Don’t, however, try this at home. Except with a cricket ball, of course; that’s all right.

3 Comments

  1. Posted March 9, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Really liked this story, SL!

  2. Posted March 10, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Approach the ball at speed and as you get into line with the ball, twist your upper body, leading with the shoulder furthest from the ball.
    .
    Baseball’d do the same. I could never get the hang of cricket because of baseball. And Australian private schools in my experience don’t exactly impart the courtesy ethos cricket is supposed to inculcate.

    The granade in the trench scenario is one I had fanatsies about when I was a kid. I always ended up imagining a tennis racket in my hand. 🙂

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