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  • Christina Drummond

Lance Corporal James Ashworth VC

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2012, Lance Corporal James Ashworth VC, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, was killed in Afghanistan. He had joined the army at the age of 17, following his father into the Grenadier Guards, and one of his brothers also serves. He is remembered by his commanding officer as "Fit, strong and brilliant at his job, he set the bar very high. Indeed, such was his calmness under pressure, his charisma, and his selflessness that he made an exemplary junior leader." He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously, and a condensed version of the citation reads: “Two aircraft inserting the Reconnaissance Platoon on an operation to neutralise a dangerous insurgent sniper team, were hit by enemy fire as they came into land. Unflustered, Ashworth, a young and inexperienced NCO, raced with his fire-team into the heart of the insurgent dominated village. Approaching the compound from which enemy machine gun fire raged, he threw a grenade and surged forward. Breaking into the compound Ashworth quickly drove the insurgent into an out-building. The village was being pressed on a number of fronts by insurgents; the platoon needed to detain or kill the final sniper, pinned down by the lead fire team as quickly as possible. A low wall ran parallel to the front of the outbuilding. Although only knee high, Ashworth judged that it would provide him with just enough cover to get sufficiently close to accurately post his final grenade. As he started to crawl, a fierce fire fight broke out just above his prostrate body. Undaunted by the extraordinary danger – a significant portion of his route was covered from view but not from fire – Ashworth grimly continued his painstaking advance. After three minutes of slow crawling under exceptionally fierce automatic fire he had edged forward fifteen metres and was within five metres of the insurgent’s position. Desperate to ensure that he succeeded in accurately landing the grenade, he deliberately crawled out from cover into full view of the enemy. Enemy rounds were tearing up the ground mere centimetres from his body, yet he did not shrink back. Then, as he was about to throw the grenade he was hit by enemy fire and died at the scene. Ashworth’s conspicuous gallantry galvanised his platoon to complete the clearance of the compound. Despite the ferocity of the insurgent’s 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.” James, from Kettering, was 23 years old.

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