16/07/2012 16:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Soldier Spends 14 Hours Travelling 3,500 Miles From Afghanistan By Helicopter, Plane And Car To See Birth Of His Son

Soldier spends 14 hours travelling 3,500 miles from Afghanistan by helicopter, plane and car to see birth of his son  SWNS/BBC Look East

Corporal Simon Mercer wasn't going to let a little thing like 3,500 miles get in the way of him seeing his son being born.

It was almost a case of Planes, Trains and Automobiles when he raced back - via a helicopter, three planes and a car - from serving in Afghanistan to reach his wife in just 14 hours.

Simon, 30, had planned to take two weeks leave in August to be home for his son's due date, but when he received a call saying his wife Karen, 35, had gone into labour nine weeks early, he wasn't going to miss it for the world.

Military officials sorted a helicopter and flew him to a waiting plane which took him to an airfield. There he jumped onto a second plane before landing at another airstrip to meet up with a plane taking troops home to the UK.

SWNS/BBC Look East

As he landed at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, a car whisked him straight to Salisbury District Hospital. He arrived at the maternity ward 14 hours later, just as midwives were giving Karen drugs to delay labour.

Their son Heath was born the next day weighing just 3lb, 3oz.

"We had planned for the labour and were hoping that Simon would be able to take his 'R&R' in August as I was due on August 13," says Karen, an administrator from Bulford Camp, Wiltshire. "I had felt a few pains earlier in the day but didn't think anything of it and was taking a booked tour of the hospital when they said I had gone into labour.

"It was such a huge shock. All I could think was that I wasn't ready and it was way, way too early. I was so worried about the baby and whether he would be okay. My midwife phoned the Army and made them understand the gravity of the situation. They made the decision to send him home.

"They organised a helicopter and then three planes to bring him here. When he arrived it was just such a relief."

Simon spent two weeks in hospital with Karen and Heath before returning to Afghanistan three weeks ago.

Soldier spends 14 hours travelling 3,500 miles from Afghanistan by helicopter, plane and car to see birth of his son  SWNS/BBC Look East

"It was pretty kind of flash to bang the whole way through," he says. "I think it took about 14 hours from leaving Afghanistan to walking through the hospital doors. It was just surreal.

"I'm incredibly proud of my wife for how well she's been doing and incredibly proud of the little 'un for how well he has been fighting through."

Heath is still in hospital recovering from his premature arrival, but it making good progress and is expected to be allowed home soon.

Congratulations Simon and Karen!