Bravery awards for North-East soldiers who rescued wounded comrades while under fire (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Bravery awards for North-East soldiers who rescued wounded comrades while under fire
THREE North-East soldiers have been recognised for their incredible bravery in Afghanistan.
Private Lewis Murphy, of the Yorkshire Regiment, will be presented with the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery (QCB) while Serjeant Lee Slater, of The Rifles, has been awarded a Mention in Despatches after they rescued injured comrades under enemy fire in separate attacks.
And Captain Martin Hedley, of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who saved children being used as human shields, has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
Pte Murphy, from Middlesbrough, removed his body armour and helmet to carry a critically injured soldier who had been shot in the neck through a deep river to a waiting medical helicopter.
The former Acklam Grange School pupil, who had been part of a team tracking down four insurgents who had abducted an Afghan police officer, said his actions were instinctive.
“I didn’t think about the danger of it, I just thought if I leave my equipment on I’ll drown,” he explained.
However, half way across he began to stumble through the thick mud under the weight of the casualty who was still carrying heavy equipment.
“I remember being so angry with myself,” he said. “I screamed out and thrashed the water in a rage, asking myself why I couldn’t do it.
“After running to the helicopter with him in my arms for another 80m I was totally shattered. I have never felt so drained in my life,” he added.
Sjt Slater’s valiant efforts also saved a man’s life which, he said, was just part of his job.
Originally from Bishop Auckland, he was leading a patrol in the dangerous Bowri desert when one of his team was struck in the leg with a bullet as they spoke to a local farmer.
Fearing more casualties if a mass rescue was attempted, Sjt Slater organised his men and they returned fire as he ran from cover to drag the wounded soldier to safety alone.
Serjeant Lee Slater, of The Rifles
“I could see the rounds landing within 50cm of him in clouds of dust,” he said. “I knew he had been hit and there wasn’t time to spare. It was adrenaline that took over. I wanted to get him to safety because I knew if he stayed where he was he might be hit again.”
He added: “I feel I was only doing my job – what any other soldier would have done for one of their own.”
Capt Hedley, originally from Gateshead, was training with US Armed Forces in Kansas when he was told about his honour which left him “gobsmacked”.
Captain Martin Hedley
“It was the end of our course and so hundreds of us were gathered in a hall waiting to hear our results.
“Then they announced that I had been awarded the MBE, I was gobsmacked. You don’t get too many of these at my rank and experience.”
He had been leading more Afghan soldiers who had lost their commander into enemy territory when they came across insurgents firing from behind children.
Despite the imminent danger he and his men faced, Capt Hedley said it was a straightforward decision to stop firing back.
“The benefits of targeting an insurgent are outweighed by the risk of wounding or killing a civilian,” he explained.
On six other occasions Capt Hedley and his men were caught in ambushes and found themselves under fire on almost every patrol they made.
He said his family, especially his wife, Laura, was proud of his accolade. “I told her of the shooting incident at the time so she was just glad to get me home. But she chided me that I had volunteered for this.”
His citation read: “Hedley kept the Afghans going in the dark days after their charismatic leader was killed in action, an impressive feat for a non-Afghan officer and a real testament to his sustained courage and leadership.”