VC for British soldier killed in Afghanistan
The mother of a “supremely courageous and inspiring” soldier awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his valour in Afghanistan said today she missed him and his smile “so much”.
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.
His mother Kerry, father Duane and his younger brother Coran - also a serving soldier - were present when the citation describing their loved one’s heroics was read out yesterday at the Grenadier Guards barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire.
The soldier, from Corby, Northamptonshire, was killed as he stormed an insurgent position in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand in June 2012.
The citation read: “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.”
Wiping away tears, his mother, 44, said that, although the award had made her “ecstatically happy”, the announcement had brought back the pain of his death too.
“I miss his smile. He’s got the best smile anyone could ever have. He always smiles... and his hugs. I just love him so much,” she said.
“[This award] doesn’t make it easier but it does make it feel that it wasn’t for nothing, he was making a difference out there and James believed in his job.
“We just miss him so much, but this award is not just for James it’s for everybody who fights and who has been injured and the whole town is so proud of him,” she said.
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.
L/Cpl Ashworth and his platoon were ordered into Nahr-e-Saraj on 13 June to engage an insurgent sniper team and came under fire.
A follow-up assault by Afghan police then stalled and L/Cpl Ashworth again led an advance using grenades.
He dropped to the floor and crawled to the front of the outbuilding with bullets flying over his head.
Using his last grenade he broke cover and he was preparing to throw it when he was tragically hit by enemy fire.
Mrs Ashworth, 44, a customer service manager, said: “I didn’t know the full extent [of what he had done], I knew a bit about what happened and I know when we came to meet the soldiers they were saying how wonderful he was, but I never in my life expected this.”
Mr Ashworth, 44, a holiday complex manager, added: “We knew what he had done was exceptional.
“That is the sort of thing you know he would do,” he said.
Mrs Ashworth called her 6ft 8in son a “loveable rogue” who would help anyone in trouble.
“I used to say to him every time we had a telephone call ‘keep your head down, you’re 6ft 8in’,” she said.
“I talk to him on Facebook and I have children and grandchildren and that does help, but some days it’s really hard and I go and visit him at his grave - you cope as best you can.”
Mr Ashworth said that he speaks to his son every day: “Everyday is difficult but each day gets easier.”
Commander Land Forces, Lieutenant General Adrian Bradshaw, said L/Cpl Ashworth had shown “immense courage” and his loss was deeply felt by the army.
The Victoria Cross is the most prestigious of all military decorations and only awarded in exceptional circumstances for bravery carried out under direct enemy fire.
It was first created on 29 January, 1856, and is hand-made from bronze cannon captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol in 1854-55 during the Crimean War.
The inscription For Valour was personally chosen by Queen Victoria. To date, only 1,360 VCs have been awarded and L/Cpl Ashworth’s will be the 1,361st.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east