Prince hails ‘inspiring’ hero soldier now an MBE

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A SOLDIER thought to have survived the worst ever battlefield injuries in Afghanistan said he was moved to be described as an “inspiration” by the Prince of Wales as he made him an MBE yesterday.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson lost both legs and suffered more than 40 injuries, including brain damage that affected his memory and speech, in a bomb attack in 2006.

Speaking moments after receiving the honour at Buckingham Palace, the paratrooper said: “I was surprised at how much Prince Charles knew about me.

“He said I was an inspiration. It made me feel so proud.”

When he took a turn in carrying the Olympic flame through his home town of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, last July, the sight of the determined soldier on his prosthetic legs moved many to tears and was declared one of the most emotional scenes of the relay.

L/Bdr Parkinson was also one of a group of injured veterans who took part in a gruelling trek in Norway earlier this year.

The expedition, organised by the charity Pilgrim Bandits, retraced the footsteps of the Second World War heroes of Telemark to mark the 70th anniversary of the mission.

Also recognised for bravery yesterday was Royal Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Craig Sweeney, who received the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue of a climber in Argyll in December 2011, in blizzard conditions and pitch darkness.

He described the mission to uplift Gareth Bradley on 3,074ft Beinn Sgulaird near Oban as one of the most challenging rescues he has ever undertaken.

“We didn’t have any time to reflect on what we were doing at the time. I was just concentrating on the job in hand,” he said. “I find this more nerve-racking.”

The crew from HMS Gannet in Prestwick, Ayrshire, flew their Sea King helicopter to the aid of Mr Bradley, who might not have survived the elements were it not for their rescue mission.