Lance Corporal James Ashworth VC

Lance Corporal James Thomas Duane Ashworth VC (26 May 1989 - 13 June 2012) was a British soldier and posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross. He was killed in Afghanistan on 13 June 2012, at the age of 23, as he led his fire team in an attack on an enemy-held compound. The award was gazetted on Friday 22 March 2013, having been confirmed by the British Army earlier in the week. Ashworth is the 14th recipient of the award since the end of the Second World War. His medal was presented to his mother Kerry at Buckingham Palace on 20 May 2013.

On 13 June 2012, Lance-Corporal Ashworth was serving as part of the Reconnaissance Platoon, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards. He was on a patrol in the Nahri Saraj District of Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was leading a fire-team, clearing out compounds, when his team came under fire from Taliban armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades from several mud huts. Ashworth charged the huts, providing cover for his team who followed in single file behind him. After his fire-team took out most of the insurgents, Ashworth pursued the final remaining member. He crawled forward under cover of a low wall while his team provided covering fire and acted as a diversion. When he got within 5 metres of the enemy, he was killed as he attempted to throw a grenade. Captain Michael Dobbin, commander of the platoon, who was awarded the Military Cross for repeated courage throughout the operational tour, said about Ashworth, "His professionalism under pressure and ability to remain calm in what was a chaotic situation is testament to his character. L/Cpl Ashworth was a pleasure to command and I will sorely miss his calming influence on the battlefield. Softly spoken, he stepped up to every task thrown in his direction." After his death, his body was taken to Camp Bastion and was then repatriated to the United Kingdom.

James Ashworth lived and grew up in Corby, Northamptonshire, where he attended Lodge Park Technology College. A keen sportsman, he represented his school at both football and basketball. In 2006, aged 17, Ashworth joined the British Army following his father who had previously served in the Grenadier Guards. Ashworth trained at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick before being posted to Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards, which is performs public duties and state ceremonial events in London. He was identified as being capable of becoming a paratrooper and was assigned to the Guards' Parachute Platoon, which is part of 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment. In his three years in the platoon, he took part in Operation Herrick 8 and was posted to exercises overseas on three occasions. He was sent to Canada before joining the Reconnaissance Platoon for Operation Herrick 16.

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by Stephen Luscombe