Shot in neck, with blood spilling over his throat, machine-gunner Simon Moloney knew he had to return to the fight or his comrades would be over-run by the Taliban.
So, just minutes after thinking he had been fatally wounded, he was back in the heat of battle and helping to repel a ferocious attack.
He only quit 90 minutes later after being ordered to by his commanding officer.
Lance Corporal Moloney’s heroism – and that of medic Wesley Masters who patched him up so he could keep fighting – was revealed as the two friends were awarded medals in the operational honours list.
The two men were among 12 British soldiers taking part in a pre-dawn raid on the Taliban in their stronghold of Yakshal in Helmand province on July 4 last year.
Lance Corporal Moloney, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, and another machine-gunner were covering a patrol from the roof of a mud-walled compound.
At around 6am the battlefield ‘just erupted’ with as many as 30 insurgents opening fire from all around, he said. Minutes later he was struck by a tracer round which hurled him from the roof.
Lance Corporal Moloney, 23, said: ‘It winded me like I’ve never been winded. I was thinking, “I’ve been shot in the neck, it’s game over”. I figured I had minutes left.’
Incredibly, the bullet passed though his neck behind his windpipe, also missing the arteries to his head.
‘When after a couple of minutes I was not dead and I could still talk I started to get a better feeling,’ he said. ‘We had to crack on. They were pushing quite hard so it was either maybe die or definitely die because they would have over-run us.’
Some 300metres away, Lance Corporal Masters and his comrades were pinned down by Taliban gunmen when they received the radio message telling them: ‘Man down.’
Acting with selfless disregard for his own life and disregarding orders, Lance Corporal Masters dashed across open ground under heavy fire while carrying 60kg of equipment to reach his fallen friend.
The soldier, from Somerset, said he was forced to improvise with field dressings because ‘you don’t normally expect someone to survive a shot to the neck’.
He said: ‘But he [Moloney] said to me, “Do what you need to do, I have to get back in”.’
Lance Corporal Moloney said: ‘As soon as Wes came I was completely at ease – I was quite happy then, that I was going to survive and that he had it in the bag.’
Despite his throat injury, Lance Corporal Moloney continued shouting critical information to his comrades which enabled them to win the firefight. Even when a helicopter arrived to evacuate him, he had to be ordered to get aboard rather than staying in the battle.
He returned to Britain for treatment but was back on the frontline less than a month later.
As for Lance Corporal Masters’ quick decision to help him on the battlefield, he said: ‘We’re like family. He saved my life.’
Lance Corporal Moloney, of the Blues and Royals, receives the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross – the UK’s second-highest award for valour – and Lance Corporal Masters, 25, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, won a Military Cross.