Thursday, 10 September 2009

Pride of the British Armed Forces recognised at ceremony

A soldier who fought through intense danger and perilous circumstances to recover the body of a comrade killed in an explosion in Afghanistan is among a number of gallant service personnel recognised in the latest Operational Awards List.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Benjamin Kelly’s Military Cross is announced today (Friday) with the official announcement of the awards. WO Kelly ordered his crew to remain in their vehicle and spent 30 minutes, alone, recovering Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary O’Donnell, who had just been killed while attempting to defuse an improvised explosive device.

WO2 O’Donnell received a posthumous bar to his George Medal earlier this year for his actions in Afghanistan. Now WO2 Kelly is recognised for his exceptional bravery demonstrated under the most demanding mental and physical pressures.

But his is just one of more than 100 awards for gallantry and meritorious service announced today, covering the period October 2008 to March 2009. Many of those recognised served with the 3 Commando Brigade Task Force that deployed to Afghanistan in autumn 2008, but awards also go to others involved in operations in Iraq, elsewhere overseas and in the UK. Award recipients are primarily from the Royal Navy and Army.

Among the highest level awards announced for actions in Afghanistan are Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses for Royal Marines Acting Corporal Bradley Malone and Marine Steven Nethery. Acting Corporal Malone showed complete disregard for his own safety by leaving cover and advancing across open ground to rescue his troop sergeant who had become isolated in a dangerous area. His fighting prowess turned the tide of a battle and potentially saved several men from a deadly ambush.

Meanwhile Mne Nethery, as a general purpose machine gunner, took every opportunity to go above and beyond the call of duty. He ran, unarmed, under concentrated fire, to retrieve a wounded colleague, and then braved the open ground a second time to prevent vital equipment falling into enemy hands.

Another notable award goes to Commander Task Force Helmand on Op Herrick 9, Brigadier Gordon Messenger DSO OBE, who has been decorated with a Bar to his Distinguished Service Order. This is the first Bar to a DSO awarded to a member of the Naval Service since 1957, and across all three Services since 1996.

Operational Awards List 33 also includes recognition of meritorious service during the UK’s now completed combat mission in Iraq. Leading these awards is former General Officer Commanding in Basrah, Major General Andy Salmon, who is appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George.

At an event on Thursday the award recipients were congratulated by senior representatives of their Services: From the Royal Navy, the Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey; and from the Army, General Officer Commanding London District Major General Bill Cubitt.

Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, said:

“The stories of gallantry and heroism behind these honours and awards are nothing short of astounding. Reading through the citations serves as a reminder, were it needed, that the UK really does have the bravest, most professional military in the world. The servicemen and women recognised today are not just the pride of the British Armed Forces, they are the pride of Britain.”

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