Light Dragoons soldiers honoured

Emma KnightsIt was a proud day for the Light Dragoons today as some of the Swanton Morley-based soldiers were honoured for bravery and outstanding achievements in Afghanistan.Emma Knights

It was a proud day for the Light Dragoons today as some of the Swanton Morley-based soldiers were honoured for bravery and outstanding achievements in Afghanistan.

They were among more than 150 servicemen and women across the country to receive operational honours and awards for work in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world - including a record number who served in 19 Light Brigade's bloody tour of Afghanistan between March and September 2009.

Eight of the recipients nationally were honoured posthumously, the highest number since the second world war.

They included L/Cpl Nigel Moffett, of the Light Dragoons, who was killed in Afghanistan aged 28 in May 2009, and who yesterday was recognised with a Mention in Despatches (MiD).

The Light Dragoons lost six men in last year's tour - four from the regiment and two attached soldiers from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

The regiment deployed in April 2009 as part of 19 Light Brigade, spending three months providing security in the Garmsir District before moving to Babaji where they took part in Operation Panther's Claw - a campaign to clear one of the few remaining Taliban strongholds in Helmand Province.

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Speaking of today's honours and awards, Major Hugo Willis, second in command of the Light Dragoons, said: 'It was a hugely proud day for the regiment. It is really good we can recognise the achievements of individuals but I think it is also reflective of the wider effort of both the regiment and all of the British troops.

'We have to single out individuals but I am sure every single one of them has accepted the honours on behalf of their fellow soldiers.'

He added while it is right that these honours are celebrated, at the back of everyone's minds are the soldiers who have lost their lives Other Light Dragoons honoured included Major Samuel Plant, who was made an MBE for commanding the C Squadron Group at Forward Operating Base Keenan in Helmand Province from April to October 2009 and seeking to protect and secure the local population.

Lt Col Gus Fair, commanding officer of the Light Dragoons and who commanded the Light Dragoons Battle Group in Helmand Province from March to September last year was awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Service Order.

According to the citation, Lt Col Fair 'dealt with extraordinary levels of tactical complexity and danger,' and his leadership was 'inspirational.'

The Military Cross was awarded to Lt Tresham Gregg, who commanded a mixed troop of reconnaissance vehicles and dismounted soldiers during Panther's Claw. He "insisted on leading from the front; resolute and firm in his determination to take the fight to the enemy at all costs."

As well as L/Cpl Moffett, four other Light Dragoons were given a MiD.

They included Sgt Jamie Lawson, 31, who stepped up to take control after his troop leader lost his lower right leg and a soldier from a different regiment was killed. He called in a helicopter to evacuate the casualties, but shortly after the helicopter left the scene an IED was triggered killing Light Dragoon L/Cpl David Dennis, 29, who Sgt Lawson also helped to treat and evacuate.

He described being given a MiD as a bittersweet honour and said he was accepting it on behalf of everybody who was there doing their job with them.

'It took me by surprise because I thought what I did was part and parcel of what I do. I feel very honoured but it is a little bit bittersweet because for me to stand out others had to be in a bad situation.'

Warrant Officer Class Two Mark Dobbs, 37, was also given a MiD.

He was working with a platoon of the Afghan National Army. During a patrol an IED was triggered killing a soldier from the Welsh Guards and injuring others.

WO Class Two Dobbs and his fellow soldiers had to secure the area and arrange a helicopter evacuation of the casualties, while all the time being aware the Taliban were closing in them and trying to target the helicopter.

About being given a MiD he said: 'I am pleased but everyone deserves recognition for being out there. All I was doing was my job.'

Sgt Grant Cuthbertson, 34, was also recognised with a MiD.

While in the south of Garmsir his group got into contact with the enemy forces and one of the Afghan National Army was injured.

Sgt Cuthberston and his team had to carry the injured soldier for 2.5km and cross three rivers to get the man to a spot where he could be evacuated by helicopter. The whole time they were under the threat of the enemy and Sgt Cuthbertson organised for an Apache helicopter and a F-15 aircraft to help protect them.

Two months later during Panther's Claw Sgt Cuthbertson was blown up by an IED in Babaji and got shrapnel in his right arm and his muscles were ripped from his right shoulder. He is having an operation on his shoulder in April and hopes to make a full recovery.

He said: 'It is a nice honour to be awarded something. Obviously I feel proud, but there are people that have not got an award and guys that haven't come back. I feel happiness as well as sorrow.'

Cpl Anthony Richardson was also recognised with a MiD, while Cpl Leslie Binns received a Queen's Commendation for Bravery, and Major Stuart Wiles was awarded a Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service.

Three Light Dragoons were given a Joint Commander's Commendation - Capt Timothy Badham, Cpl Richard Hindson and L/Cpl Gareth Beardshaw.

L/Cpl Beardshaw, 24, was on patrol with British, American and Afghanistan soldiers last August when they were ambushed by members of the Taliban, and a soldier from the Mercian Regiment was shot the neck.

With the commanding officer busy sorting out a helicopter to evacuate the soldier, L/Cpl Beardshaw took control of the patrol and after the casualty was evacuated they pushed forward and took control of a village in Garmsir.

He said: 'It is nice to be singled out for an award but there are a lot of people here who did a fantastic job and did not get singled out.'

Cpl Hindson, 29, a medic who lives in Norwich, was with a team on the Babaji road en route to help a vehicle hit by an IED in July last year when they also got hit by an IED. Cpl Hindson, who suffered a broken nose, treated the three other soldiers who were with him and who had internal injuries and he arranged for them to be evacuated by helicopter.

About his award he said: 'I am really proud, but I think it is more important that the whole regiment gets recognition for its contribution to Afghanistan. I was not the only person at that incident. Every person who was there has contributed to my award.'