UK

Posthumous Victoria Cross For 'Outstanding Soldier', L/Cpl James Ashworth, Killed In Afghanistan

16/03/2013 09:43 GMT

A British soldier who died as he protected the lives of his comrades in Afghanistan is to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Lance Corporal James Ashworth, 23, will receive the medal in recognition of his "extraordinary courage" while serving with the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards in Helmand province last year, it has been reported.

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 is just the second from the 12-year conflict in Afghanistan.

A Victoria Cross was awarded to Corporal Bryan Budd of 3 Para, who died fighting the Taliban in 2006.

corporal ashworth

Lance Corporal James Ashworth was killed in June last year

L/Cpl Ashworth, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, was killed in the Nahr-e-Siraj district on 13 June 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."

corporal ashworth

Ashworth's 'extraordinary courage' in death earned him Britain's highest honour

L/Cpl Ashworth was a soldier for five years and came from a family with strong military links, The Times said.

His father Duane was also a Grenadier Guard, while his younger brother Coran is also a soldier.

He also left behind his mother Kerryann, 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."

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

victoria cross

More than 1,300 soldiers have received the award in the 156 years since it brought in by Queen Victoria

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 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.

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