THREE soldiers from the region have told how they owe their lives to a new £500,000 vehicle.

They were all in Mastiff armoured personnel carriers when they hit landmines or were attacked by Taliban fighters with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Private Stephen Mac-Lauchlan, from York, told how he survived four RPGs hitting his vehicle.

One struck the windscreen and exploded, but failed to penetrate the toughened 6in glass.

Another hit armour on the side of the vehicle and exploded harmlessly, while the other two hit the fuel tank, but only left it badly dented.

Pte MacLauchlan said: "I owe my life to this vehicle.

"If I had been in any other armoured personnel carrier, I would almost certainly be dead now.

Pte MacLauchlan, who has been in the Army for five years, is a member of 8 Regiment of the Royal Logistics Corps.

He has been in Afghanistan since March and his role is to drive infantry soldiers to the front line. The first Mastiff arrived in April.

Recalling the attack, which happened this month, Pte MacLauchlan said: "It was about 5.30am.

"We were going into battle. We were driving down into three or four compounds and a little stream and we dropped the guys off.

"As soon as we pulled in, we started getting fired at by AK47s. There were dozens of rounds hitting the vehicle.

"Within 30 seconds of stopping, one RPG hit the bar armour and exploded. I heard a bang and saw a lot of smoke.

"About 50 metres in front of me I saw a guy pop out from behind a wall and fire an RPG and then duck down. I saw it fly towards me. I was terrified.

"It hit the glass and it shattered. There was a big puff of smoke. I just thought it was the end for me."

It is not clear if the two that hit the fuel tank, which contained gallons of diesel, exploded or merely glanced off.

Pte Lee Ashton, 24, from Darlington, was on a mission to supply food and water to frontline troops, when his vehicle hit an anti-tank mine.

He said: "It blew the front tyre off and the wheel arch, but it kept driving. It just felt like we had hit a huge pothole. I only realised we had hit a mine when I saw the tyre was off. A big cloud of dust came in through the vents into the cab. The man on top-cover then shouted that we had hit a mine.

"It was a big anti-tank mine and if I had been in any other vehicle, I would probably be dead."

Pte Lee Jones, 24, from Penrith, Cumbria, was in a Mastiff when it hit an anti-tank mine.

He said: "There was big explosion and a lot of dust.

"It lifted the vehicle between seven and 8ft. It was like a car crash.

"It blew the front wheels off, but this vehicle is brilliant. It saved my life. It has saved a lot of lives."