Posthumous VC for heroic soldier
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 was 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. L/Cpl Ashworth, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, 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."
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."
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.