SAS hero recalls fiercest battle codenamed ‘certain death’ was ’60-man punch-up’

An SAS veteran has recalled his wildest battle that was so dangerous it was codenamed "operation certain death".

Phil Campion, labelled once by a lawyer as “The Most Dangerous Man In Hampshire,” appeared on Dodge Woodall's Eventful Lives podcast to discuss his incredible exploits.

He described the first time he went into what he described as a “major punch up” in Sierra Leone, rescuing 11 soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment who had been captured by a gang called the West Side Boys in 2000.

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The operation to rescue them was codenamed “certain death” because “the only real option we had was to fly a helicopter straight into the middle of the camp, jump straight on top of everybody and have it out with them.”

The maverick operation was a million miles from being done by the book, and despite having been “blown up a few times in Northern Ireland and dodged a couple bullets”, it was by far the most dramatic thing Phil had gotten involved in.

The “full-on day out” saw about “60 blokes having it out in the village” at first light.

As part of negotiations, the UK government had given the West Side Boys cases of lager “as a sign of goodwill” and the captors had got drunk the night before not believing they were going to be attacked.

When they got the green light, he said: “At first, I was stood behind my mate going ‘COME ON! YES! YES!’”

After the fighting was done, a cup of tea drunk and a second counter-attack repelled at the edge of the village, the sensation of the job being done set in.

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“You go through so many emotions in one day on something like that.”

Before it, he said there would be nerves, “anticipation” and “worry” – then you had to have “extreme focus”.

One of the men in his squadron and a good mate, Brad, was killed in the shooting and Phil found out about it while the battle was still going on.

He said the news left him “furious, absolutely furious", adding he thought: "Just give me another one, give me anyone, give me one of them and I’ll do them with my hands… Absolutely mad angry, battlefield angry.”

Then, when things calmed down another emotion came over him.

“You get this feeling of phwoaar. Glad to be alive. Wow, wow I survived it – in the knowing that other people haven't fared as well so there’s a bit of guilt in there as well

“You must go through every emotion the human body possibly has.”

That night they had some beers, as he soaked up a “phenomenal experience.”

Asked whether he enjoyed the buzz, Phil said: “I did enjoy the buzz yeah. That day was a phenomenal day.”

That buzz would carry on through a long career in service and later as a gun for hire.


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