A US blog, first alerted me to this story a few days ago.
With a keen eye, the author had spotted a couple of images from the USMC media operation in Helmand.
Because there seemed to be no coverage in any UK media outlets I was a little reticent about covering it, fearing that it was combat damage and there might have been a news embargo for obvious reasons.
With news starting to filter out in the UK I have assumed its safe to cover it.
Rotorhub.com has been told the incident occured on 23 June after the Merlin assigned to 1419 Flight made a heavy landing at an assault base in the Lashkar Gar area of Helmand province.
No-one was seriously injured and the incident is now being investigated while the aircraft is being assessed to see if it can be returned to service.
A heavy Lift CH53E Super Stallion helicopter has recovered a damaged Merlin, the pictures show the impressive lifting power of the helicopter but no doubt a lot of skill and expertise from all concerned also went into the whole operations.
More details from the Marine Times here
Merlin - Prior to Recovery
Merlin - Recovered USMC CH53E
So, a gracious tip of the hat to Solomon
Some better images from Richard (click for a bigger image)
Wing Cmdr. "Spats" Paterson, the commanding officer of the Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) here, peers inside the 'lifeless' body of Mk3 Merlin which Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 recovered from a forward operating base. The helo went down in a nonhostile event recently and had to be toted back here - a mission HMH-466 was able to plan and execute in about 16 hours.
The 'lifeless' body of an Mk3 Merlin with Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) here sits just off the air field where a CH-53E Super Stallion with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 put it down moments earlier.
Members of the United Kingdom's Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) here remove the rigging from a Mk3 Merlin after an early-morning operation to recover the aircraft from a forward operating base. The helo suffered a hard landing recently, and JHF(A) turned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 and its CH-53E Super Stallions for the lift because the Marines were the only squadron capable of reconfiguring its aircraft for a lift of this magnitude on extremely short notice.