Hero soldier’s family hears Victoria Cross citation

Lance Corporal James Ashworth, 23, of Corby who was killed in Afghanistan
Lance Corporal James Ashworth, 23, of Corby who was killed in Afghanistan
12
Have your say

The family of a Corby soldier who died trying to save his comrades and who was awarded the Victoria Cross on Monday heard the wording of the citation read aloud.

Lance Corporal James Ashworth, 23, received the medal in recognition of his “extraordinary courage” while serving with the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards in Helmand province last year.

The Victoria Cross, the country’s highest award for gallantry, has been awarded just 10 times to UK soldiers since the Second World War.

The posthumous award to L/Cpl Ashworth, a former pupil of Lodge Park Technology College, is just the second from the 12-year conflict in Afghanistan.

L/Cpl Ashworth’s father Duane, a former Grenadier Guard, his mum Kerry and younger brother Coran, also a soldier, were present at Buller Barracks, Aldershot Army base, Hampshire, where the citation for the Victoria Cross was read aloud.

It states: “Despite the ferocity of the insurgents’ 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.”

Corby Council leader Tom Beattie, who summed up the town’s pride, said: “This is a tremendous honour for James and his family and it is recognition of his extreme bravery.

“There is an enormous sense of pride among people in Corby.”

L/Cpl Ashworth was killed in the Nahr-e-Siraj district on June 13 when his reconnaissance platoon became involved in a battle with the Taliban inside enemy-held compounds.

He is understood to have fought against huge odds, deliberately exposing himself to enemy fire, and died from a grenade blast as he tried to protect his men, The Times said.

Officials said he took care to ensure there were no civilians in the line of fire.

L/Cpl Ashworth’s comrades spoke of their pride in his bravery, and told how the death of such an “outstanding soldier” would leave a gaping hole in the battalion.

His company commander, Captain Mike Dobbin, said at the time of his death: “Lance Corporal Ashworth was killed while fighting his way through compounds; leading his fire team from the front, whilst trying to protect his men; and he showed extraordinary courage to close on a determined enemy.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his girlfriend, who should be extremely proud of the courage he displayed and the life that he led.

“I am humbled by what I saw of Lance Corporal Ashworth’s actions and will never forget him.”

Guardsman Jordan Loftus said: “Selfless, brave, courageous - words like these don’t come close to what Ash demonstrated that day.”

L/Cpl Ashworth also left behind sisters Lauren and Paige, brother Karl and four-year-old niece Darcy, as well as his girlfriend, Emily.

His family paid tribute to him after his death, saying: “We are devastated by the loss of our son, brother, uncle and boyfriend.

“He meant the world to everyone and has left an irreplaceable hole in our hearts.”

Sergeant Vandell McLean, his platoon sergeant, wrote at the time: “My sorrow is with his family at this time of loss. Please take comfort in knowing that Lance Corporal Ashworth died protecting me, his mates and the rest of the platoon.”

Lieutenant-Commander James Bowder, MBE, commander of the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards, called him “an outstanding soldier”.

“Lance Corporal Ashworth’s death leaves a hole in the battalion - we have lost one of our very best soldiers. The battalion, and indeed the broader regiment, will never forget this quite exceptional man.”

The award will be officially confirmed by the Ministry of Defence next week.

The Victoria Cross ranks as the nation’s highest award for gallantry, along with the George Cross.

Instituted by Queen Victoria in 1856, the Victoria Cross is awarded for “most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy”.

The bronze cross, which has a crimson ribbon bears the inscription “For Valour”, is cast from the metal of Russian guns captured at the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War, the campaign in which the first medals were awarded.

The Victoria Cross may be awarded to all ranks of the services - and also to civilians - to recognise gallantry in the presence of the enemy.

The medal has been awarded 1,356 times, the most recent of which was a posthumous award to Corporal Bryan Budd, of the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, for acts of “inspirational leadership and the greatest valour” in southern Afghanistan in 2006.

Only 13 Victoria Cross medals have been awarded since the Second World War, nine to members of the British Army and four to the Australian Army.

L/Cpl Ashworth’s is just the fifth to have been awarded since the Falklands conflict, and all but one have been posthumous.

Private Johnson Beharry, from 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, was awarded the honour for two separate acts of outstanding gallantry to rescue his comrades in Iraq in 2004, during which suffered serious head injuries.

The Victoria Cross has been awarded to the same person twice on three occasions - to doctors Captain Arthur Martin-Leake (1902 and 1914) and Captain Noel Chavasse (1916 and posthumously 1917), and New Zealander Captain Charles Upham (1941 and 1942).

The George Cross, which stands just below the Victoria Cross as an award, recognises acts of gallantry by members of the Armed Forces or civilians in situations for which the Victoria Cross is not appropriate.

These can be incidents that are not in the presence of the enemy, such as bomb or mine disposal.

Read how town honoured L/Cpl Ashworth