The final heroic moments of the life of Lance Corporal James Ashworth were relived today (Thursday, August 1) at an inquest into his death.
L/Cpl Ashworth, of Corby, died aged 23 in a fierce battle with the Taliban in June last year.
At the hearing, held in Kettering, county coroner Anne Pember said that the young soldier, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery, had been unlawfully killed while in action in Afghanistan.
He had been fatally wounded by his own grenade after he was hit by a Taliban bullet just as he prepared to throw the explosive device into a compound.
L/Cpl Ashworth’s mum Kerry and his dad Duane were at the inquest, along with a group of more than 12 other relatives and friends.
While evidence of her son’s injuries were given, Mrs Ashworth and some other family members left the hearing, returning later.
The hearing was told that the former Lodge Park Academy pupil suffered a severe head injury and severe loss of blood as a result of blast injuries caused by an explosion.
According to evidence from forensic scientist Stephen Nicklin, L/Cpl Ashworth had been in close proximity to a grenade which had exploded and his body armour had been hit by a high energy missile.
Captain Owen Davis of the Royal Marines, who were on attachment to the Grenadier Guards, told the inquest that on the day L/Cpl Ashworth died they were on a mission to capture or kill insurgents who had already claimed the lives of three servicemen.
He said: “We had observed their movements during the previous days and we had a good idea of the area they had been working in.”
L/Cpl Ashworth died after crawling along being peppered with bullets to throw his last grenade at a sniper who had his team pinned down.
Speaking after the inquest in Kettering, his mother Kerry said her son, only the second soldier to be awarded a VC for bravery in Afghanistan, had died doing the job he loved.
She said: “His smile can light up any room he goes into and we all love and miss him so.
“James passed away doing a job he loved. At times it was a hard job but he did get to experience new countries, learn new skills and make some wonderful friends.
“James will be forever be in our hearts, thoughts and prayers and we will never get over his passing. But we will stay strong together as a family and along with his friends we will remain positive and celebrate his life at every opportunity as I know that is what he would want us to do.”
His commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel James Bowder said he was “the bravest of soldiers, the best of men”.
As well as the VC, L/Cpl Ashworth has had a square named after him in his home town of Corby.