Posthumous Victoria Cross for 'inspiring' soldierBy Amy Taylor
March 21, 2013
A ‘SUPREMELY courageous and inspiring’ soldier killed in Afghanistan has been given the highest award for bravery, nine months after his death.
Lance Corporal James Ashworth was serving with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, currently based at Lille Barracks in Aldershot, on a six-month mission in Helmand Province. He was killed by the enemy while throwing his last grenade during an attack on insurgents in the Nahr-e-Saraj district on June 13.
His bravery and his protection of his colleagues was recognised posthumously on March 18 with the awarding of the Victoria Cross (VC) at a ceremony at Buller Barracks in the Aldershot garrison, becoming only the tenth British soldier to receive the award since the Second World War.
LCpl Ashworth, 23, and his platoon came under fire as soon as they landed in Nahr-e-Saraj, prompting him to lead his team in a 300-metre charge towards the enemy. Two insurgents were killed, but a follow-up assault by Afghan Police stalled when a patrolman was shot and killed.
LCpl Ashworth led the team again, advancing on the compound and using grenades to drive the sharpshooters out, while enemy fire rained down from all directions.
The platoon needed to take down the final shooter and get out of the area, so LCpl Ashworth took hold of his last grenade, dropped to the floor and crawled behind a knee-high wall that ran parallel to the front of the compound, inching forward on his stomach while bullets continued to fly overhead.
Desperate to make his last grenade count, he crawled out from behind the wall within five metres of the insurgents’ position, exposing himself to fire in order to get a better angle.
He was preparing to throw the grenade when he was hit by enemy fire.
The citation for the VC was read aloud at the presentation to his family members, which read: “Despite the ferocity of the insurgent’s resistance, Ashworth refused to be beaten. His total disregard for his own safety in ensuring that the last grenade was posted accurately was the gallant last action of a soldier who had willingly placed himself in the line of fire on numerous occasions earlier in the attack.
“This supremely courageous and inspiring action deserves the highest recognition.”
On their return to Aldershot from Afghanistan in October, his colleagues, including Major Dominic Alkin, commander of Inkerman Company, paid tribute to LCpl Ashworth, from Corby, Northamptonshire, and to four other soldiers from the regiment who lost their lives during the tour – Lance Corporal Duane Groom, Guardsman Karl Whittle, Guardsman Jamie Shadrake, and Guardsman Michael Roland.
LCpl Ashworth’s VC is one of only 1,361 to be awarded to date, and the first to a British soldier since 2006. The award is the most prestigious of all military decorations and is only awarded in exceptional circumstances, for bravery under direct enemy fire