She served six months in the world’s most dangerous war zone, surviving a Taliban ambush and explosion. Now she’s just worried about getting the Tube again. MARK CHANDLER meets Afghanistan’s first female bomb hunter.

AFTER a few weeks back in England, Sapper Victoria Swain is relaxed about her stint in Helmand province - but the memories are as fresh as ever.

Over a cup of tea at the Catford Territorial Army unit, she explained: “It does change your views on everything.

“When I turn on the TV and see people arguing about trivial things I think there’s so much more going on that they don’t know about.”

Spr Swain signed up for the TA when she was just 19 and has served for five years in the 221 Field Squadron which specialises in bomb disposal.

After taking a course in bomb searching, the 24-year-old facilities manager seized the opportunity to volunteer for a role in Afghanistan.

She became the first woman to be out in the country sweeping for so-called improvised explosive device (IEDs) and the only female reservist out there.

News Shopper: Sapepr Swain was awarded a medal for her service Ms Swain said: “They just treated me like on of the lads really. I still had to do exactly the same job as them.”

Being a woman in a strict Islamic country where men were not used to seeing the uncovered face of a female brought its own problems as people clamoured to take photographs of her.

But she said: “I think I’m old-fashioned in the sense that I just want to do my bit. If you can get through that then you can do anything really.”

The dangers of her job were brought home when her company was ambushed by Taliban fighters.

She said: “We’d just got 100m from camp and they opened up on us with small arms fire. We managed to get into a local man’s compound when he opened up the door and we all ran inside for cover.

“Because we didn’t want to risk anyone getting injured we decided to just call it a day and head back. It was too dangerous.”

News Shopper: Ms Swain learned about bomb searching at the Catford TA in Bromley Road On another occasion her unit was sweeping a road where IEDs had been planted when one went off.

She said: “We were clearing around a compound when, unfortunately, one of the guys from my team stepped on an IED.

“Luckily he survived - he’s recovering in hospital now.”

Ms Swain, who was presented with a Herrick campaign medal last month, will have to wait 18 months to go back, and in the meantime is spending time with her family and preparing to go back to work in central London.

The sapper, who will be parading with her squadron in Rochester on Remembrance Day, said: “I’m not looking forward to getting the Tube and trains again.

“It feels good to be back. You need to let your body readjust and you get to spend time with your family again. It’s stressful for them as well as you.”

To find out more about the TA in Catford call 020 8697 9215 or visit