FOUR Oxfordshire soldiers escaped unhurt when their armoured vehicle ran over a bomb in Afghanistan.

The men, from Bicester-based 23 Pioneer Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps, were unscathed after the Taliban bomb exploded under their Mastiff armoured troop carrier in the country’s Helmand province.

Vehicle commander Captain Gordon Fletcher said: “After the initial shock of the explosion and the dust cloud in the vehicle had subsided, our first reaction was one of disorientation, trying to take in the severity of the event that had just happened, followed by what felt like minutes, but most probably seconds, of almost silence.

“Due to the size of the explosion we were unsure of the extent of the damage to the vehicle.

“On further examination, the vehicle was able to drive on its own out of the contact area.”

The men were on patrol near Musa Qal’eh, in northern Helmand, as part of the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers battlegroup.

Capt Fletcher said the soldiers’ survival was down to following basic driving safety tips.

He said: “Part of the training and safety brief covers the wearing of both seatbelts and helmets, which ultimately saved the crew from sustaining any major injuries during the blast.

“The Mastiff armoured vehicle affords us great mobility across the desert terrain of Afghanistan, despite its size and weight, giving us unrivalled protection.

“In our opinion the Mastiff saved our lives and is an excellent asset.”

Craftsman Jamie Bewick, of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, was driving the vehicle with Capt Fletcher, Staff Sgt Paul Bingham and Lance Corporal Daniel Rushton riding as passengers.

He said: “At first you’re in a state of shock but then your training kicks in and the priority is the crew, ensuring everybody is uninjured and safe.”

The troops were leading a supply convoy when the bomb exploded on May 17.

Major Jim Mowle, commander of the Mastiff Group, said: “We’re lucky to have such a well-protected vehicle to operate from and in this particular case, as has been the case before, the officers and soldiers of Mastiff Group did an excellent job in a hazardous environment, keeping cool heads and at all times acted in the professional manner one would expect.

“Their resolve is incredible and despite this incident they remain as focused on the job in hand as they did on initial deployment.”

Last month, Marine Jason Mackie, 21, from Bampton, died when the vehicle he was travelling in was struck by an explosive device.

Last September, Didcot-based Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary O’Donnell, of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, died while trying to defuse a bomb in Afghanistan.

And Marine Dale Gostick, 22, from Great Haseley, was killed in May last year.