A British soldier in Afghanistan was shot in the head - but just an hour later was back manning his machine gun.

When a bullet pierced Pte Leon Wilson's helmet and sent him flying, his buddies naturally thought he was dead.

But they were amazed when he got back up without a scratch on him.

He then went back to his machine to take on the enemy again.

It turns out that his protective helmet didn't allow the bullet to reach his head - it missed by just 2mm.

Pte Wilson, a Territorial Army volunteer attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) has, unsurprisingly, being dubbed "the luckiest man alive."

'The luckiest man alive': Taliban bullet pierces helmet of British soldier but misses head by 2mm

By Jaya Narain (external - login to view)
20th April 2009
Daily Mail

When a Taliban bullet pierced his helmet and sent him flying from his post, comrades thought Private Leon Wilson was dead.

Lying on the ground with his eyes closed, they feared the 32-year-old machine gunner had been shot straight through the head.

But Pte Wilson has been declared the luckiest soldier alive in the British Army after he got up without a scratch on him.

Miraculous escape: Private Leon Wilson wearing the helmet with the holes caused by the bullet fired by a Taliban militant marked with white circles

Incredibly the sniper's bullet had missed his head by just 2mm and after just an hour recovering from his amazing escape he was back manning his machine gun - in a borrowed helmet.

The astonishing incident happened as the soldier his comrades were on an operation with the Afghan National Army in Helmand province on April 10.

They came under fire from the Taliban and Pte Wilson set up his machine gun on the roof of a compound to engage the enemy.

Pte Wilson, a Territorial Army volunteer attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), said: 'I took my finger off the trigger of my weapon for a second and that's when the shot hit my helmet.

'It was like a big bang and I ended up flat on my back in an instant. I couldn't believe I was still alive and I had my eyes shut.

Lethal: The TA soldier holds up a 7.62mm bullet similar to the one which tore right through his helmet

'Private Wayne Withers was next to me and I asked him if I'd been shot. I opened my eyes and saw he was just staring at me in amazement and swearing.

'The medic was looking queasy - I don't think anyone wanted to take my helmet off.

'I think they all expected me to be a goner, or at least have my head covered in blood.

'In fact, although the bullet passed just two millimetres above my forehead, it didn't even leave a mark.'

Pte Wilson had been hit by the 7.62mm round from an AK47 rifle which had pierced the left side of his combat helmet, ripped through a forehead pad inside and left the front of the helmet without scratching him.

If it had been just a fraction of an inch lower the father-of-three's head would have been blown off.

The Mark 6a combat helmet Private Wilson was wearing when he was shot. The bullet missed his head by 2mm

Although he was stunned by his miracle escape, the soldier insisted on helping his colleagues and returning to the fray.

His commander, Captain Rob Agnew, insisted he find a new helmet and after an hour a replacement was found and he was back manning his gun.

Captain Agnew said: 'There's no doubt, Private Wilson must be the luckiest soldier in the British Army. He's a good lad and a good soldier.'

Brigadier Tim Radford, the Commander of Task Force Helmand, said: 'It may have been luck that saved him - but it was bravery that put him back alongside the other soldiers.'

Back at work: Private Wilson manning his general purpose machine-gun

The drama began when British and Afghan soldiers fought their way through the village of Khowshhal Kalay, where they destroyed an insurgent bomb factory.

When the fighting stopped at nightfall Private Wilson and his comrades found shelter in the compound.

But when dawn broke, Taliban positioned on the outskirts of the town began to fire on them again.

Pte Wilson, form Manchester, was on the roof with Afghan soldiers, an artillery fire controller and another officer directing Apache helicopter gunships. A smoke grenade was fired to alert the Apache crews to the British position.

At that moment, a Taliban sniper alerted by the smoke signal fired the shot that hit his helmet.

He said: 'Someone popped a smoke grenade to show the Apaches where we were.

As the smoke billowed out the shot hit me in the head.'

The British Mark 6a helmet is made of layers of strong Kevlar armour and offers a high level of protection but it is not designed to stop a direct hit from a high-velocity bullet.

Pte Wilson, a self-employed electrician in civilian life, was taken to the British base Camp Bastion, where he was able to phone his girlfriend to tell her of his escape.