Warning: This article includes images that some may find distressing.
A British fighter in Ukraine carried on shooting his weapon after being badly wounded when Russian troops hurled grenades into his bunker.
Connor, 23, was part of a five-man unit who battled enemy troops who came to within 10 metres when they stormed their position near Bakhmut, a scene of bitter fighting for months.
Despite being peppered by shrapnel from two grenades he and his comrades managed to return fire while lobbing grenades back at the advancing Russian forces during the close-quarter combat.
Handing empty magazines to a comrade to be reloaded, they held off Russian troops, during a desperate fight for survival at the start of August.
“There was no option. We were all injured. If we stopped fighting we would have all been killed,” he told i.
At least 10 British fighters have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last February.
As its counter-offensive gathers pace, Ukraine is making gains around the eastern city of Bakhmut which has been fiercely contested since Wagner troops captured the devastated city in May.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected at the White House next week as he visits the US during the United Nations General Assembly to lobby for more military support.
It’s the second time Connor has been wounded in Ukraine, which he first travelled to in March last year, despite having no military background. He returned in May to help train Ukrainian troops in combat casualty care.
Learning weapon handling and tactics, he went on to join the Karpatska Sich battalion. His first injury occured in January while defended a position under constant shelling from Russian tanks and artillery.
In his most recent deployment, he formed part of a heavy weapons platoon from the Ukrainian Territorial Defence forces defending land retaken from the Russians while supporting assault troops.
The day before Connor, who is from near Manchester, was injured an American fighter Jeffrey Jones, who was part of their unit was killed by a mortar while advancing towards the same position that Connor was wounded.
Connor was sent on the mission after another volunteer refused, with the fighters driven in a US Humvee to the battlezone to evacuate wounded fighters.
Later that evening, they advanced once more to retrieve the dead bodies of soldiers killed by the Russians before returning to a position they had to hold.
“The drone’s position was directly above where we stayed, so we were constantly being observed by the Russians,” he said.
“It’s just the smell of death constantly. We believed there were three dead Russians that buried in the bunker, which had previously been hit.”
After they were targeted by artillery, a firefight erupted when the Russians shot at their position before throwing grenades.
“So pick up the weapon, and then we’ve had to defend the line, all of us shooting and trying to hold it,” he said.
“One guy is shooting the machine gun in the bunker So it kind of messes with my hearing, because I couldn’t hear anything”.
An exploding grenade shredded his ankle and side with shrapnel, but he was able to aim M-67 grenades back at the Russians while checking they were not being flanked.
“I shot a few rounds at them. I was passing empty magazines to another Ukrainian guy who’s reloading them for us so we could stay in the fight,” he said.
“ And that’s when the third grenade came in and I was hit in the back, in the side and wounded. The guy to the right of me took a few fragments but wasn’t wounded as bad.
“I can see blood dripping down everywhere. It’s all over the bags, it’s on power banks but we are still fighting.”
Struggling to breathe and walk after taking shrapnel to his shoulder and back, they moved to another bunker 100 metres away, where he received medical aid.
Unable to evacuate due to artillery strikes and a drone monitoring their position, he was stuck for up nearly five hours before being moved to a more secure underground bunker and subsequently taken to a field hospital.
Gary Mitchell, an ex-British Army bomb disposal expert assisting mine-clearing efforts in Ukraine, put him in touch with humanitarian group Reactaid and he is now recovering in a hospital in Germany where he was transported by ambulance.
The day after he was wounded another friend, a Brazilian fighter from the same unit, was killed
But despite his injuries which he said “doesn’t bother me one bit” he said he wants to return to his unit to carry on the fight.
His thoughts were “mostly going back to the brothers who are fighting there now, the unit that are fighting there now while I’m injured.”