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Paratrooper awarded Victoria Cross

A paratrooper who risked death on three separate occasions during a battle with the Taliban and rallied his comrades in the process, has been awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) by the Queen.

Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey, 27 - the second member of his family to receive the British armed forces' highest gallantry medal - played down his actions and paid tribute to his regiment and the Army after receiving the honour.

When a UK/US assault on a Taliban stronghold was pinned down after being met by strong resistance L/Cpl Leakey took command and risked enemy fire to survey the area before giving first aid to a wounded US officer, and leading his evacuation, then returned to the fire fight.

On two separate occasions, as bullets flew dangerously close, he retrieved machine guns and took the battle to the Taliban, rallying the troops around him.

His bravery during the attack on the Taliban base in Bar Now Zad, Helmand province, on August 22 2013 earned him the British armed forces' highest gallantry medal in the face of the enemy.

L/Cpl Leakey's citation was read before he was presented with the gallantry medal during the Windsor Castle investiture ceremony.

It stated the paratrooper, from the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, showed ''complete disregard'' for his own safety when his group came under attack from about 20 insurgents armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades.

The 27-year-old from Hampshire said after the presentation ceremony: "It's great for my family, my friends, my regiment - but it does for me highlight the sacrifice everyone's made in Afghan, not just in terms of the loss of life and limbs but people going away for months on end."

His second cousin twice removed, Sergeant Nigel Gray Leakey, was a posthumous VC recipient in November 1945 for his gallantry while fighting in Africa during the Second World War.

The paratrooper is also the third serviceman to receive the VC for service in Afghanistan and the only one not to receive it posthumously.

L/Cpl Leakey's citation described how, during the operation, his group had been pinned down on a hillside with a US Marine Corps captain shot and their communication equipment out of action.

The 27-year-old first ran to the top of a barren hill and, with the ''snap and crack'' of enemy fire all around him, realised that two friendly machine gun teams and a mortar section had been surrounded.

Despite being the most junior commander on the hill, he took control of the situation, running down the slope to give first aid to the wounded US officer and moving him to partial safety.

He then went back up the hill while being shot at, picked up one of the machine guns as bullets ricocheted off its frame, moved it to another position and returned fire, which spurred on the troops around him.

But the fire-fight still raged on so he risked more bullets to get the second machine gun.

His citation said: "Drawing the majority of enemy fire, with rounds splashing around him, Lance Corporal Leakey overcame his fatigue to re-site the gun and return fire. This proved to be the turning point."

During the battle, 11 insurgents were killed and four wounded.

Speaking about the eventful day, L/Cpl Leakey said: "It stands out for me as a memorable patrol but it was just one job, one patrol out of multiple patrols.

"It's one of those things, you don't dwell on it because at the time I was halfway through the tour so you dwell on the next patrol and you're getting on with that.

"Paratroopers are well-drilled people, professional soldiers, we're the best at what we do, so in terms of 'Did you think about this? Do you think about that?', no, you just think about the task in hand."

The soldier, whose boyhood dream was to join the Army, said it was "uncomfortable" being picked out because he was a team player and everyone in the Paras relied on each other "massively".

He added: "To be singled out on your own is obviously a great honour and it's a privilege to be here - but I'm proud of my regiment - that's the privilege for me, I can't stress that enough."

The Leakeys have a prestigious record in the armed forces with the Paratrooper's father, Mark Leakey, a retired Air Commodore while his uncle, Colonel Richard Leakey, commanded the UK's helicopters in Kandahar, Afghanistan, during a 2009-10 tour.

Another relative, Lieutenant General David Leakey, is Black Rod, a senior officer in the House of Lords whose father, Rea Leakey, was a Major General and was awarded the Military Cross twice during the Second World War.

Maj Gen Leakey's brother was posthumous VC recipient Sergeant Nigel Gray Leakey.

L/Cpl Leakey said he was nervous before the ceremony but he said the Queen told him: "I don't get to give this one out very often".


From Belfast Telegraph