FIFTEEN MEMBERS of Arbroath’s elite 45 Commando Group and one soldier from the attached 7 (Sphinx) Battery, Royal Artillery, have been decorated for acts of extreme courage during the unit’s last tour in Afghanistan.
These acts did not come without a cost last October 800 men of 45 Commando arrived in Helmand to serve as Battle Group North, operating mostly in the Upper Sangin Valley.
Tragically, 12 personnel from the battle group were killed in action during the deployment, nine of whom were from 45 Commando Group. A number of others sustained very serious injuries, mainly from enemy improvised explosive devices. They are currently receiving medical and rehabilitation treatment.
Distinguished Service Order.
Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris— In the most austere environment and facing constant danger, Morris led, from the front, his Commando group spread out over 40km.
Frequently out on patrol, sharing the hardship faced by his troops, he tirelessly championed their welfare and well being, while ensuring that they made a significant contribution to the wider campaign.
Member of the Order of the British Empire.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Kevin John Cheeseman, Company Sergeant Major, Zulu Company— In an exceptionally demanding role, he was the lynchpin during a tour characterised by relentless pressure from a ruthless enemy.
Facing numerous challenges with courage and fortitude, he demonstrated dogged perseverance, poise and composure. His selfless service to his country and his company was exemplary.
Major Ross Walker Preston, Officer Commanding, Whiskey Company—Assuming responsibility for the security of one of the most complex and demanding areas of Afghanistan, he rose magnificently to the many challenges with deft and inspired leadership.
Surgeon Lieutenant Henry Dowlen, 45 Cdo Medical Officer— Commanding a medical centre caring for more than 450 service personnel and 200 Afghan army and police, Dowlen rose to the challenges of a relentless workload and limited resources with exemplary and selfless determination.
Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.
Lance Corporal Bradley Malone —Displaying a complete disregard for his own safety, Malone left cover to advance across open ground in order to collect his Troop Sergeant who had become isolated in the killing area.
Malone’s fighting prowess and gallantry turned the tide of the battle and led to the successful extraction of 10 Troop from a deadly ambush.
Marine Steven Nethery—As a general purpose machine gunner, Nethery took every opportunity to go above and beyond the call of duty.
He ran, unarmed, under fire to retrieve a wounded colleague. After doing so, he braved the open ground a second time to prevent vital equipment falling into enemy hands.
He then carried the casualty over a stretch of 250m to the evacuation party. His repeated bravery undoubtedly saved lives.
Acting Corporal John Ballance, Section Commander—Despite enemy fire, Ballance and a comrade cleared a route towards stricken casualties.
Ballance repeatedly ran from cover into withering fire to manage the evacuation of a casualty.
Sergeant Andrew Leaver, Troop Sergeant—Leaver’s considerable presence of mind and rapid response to a dangerous situation not only ensured the evacuation of a casualty but prevented his colleagues from being over-run by the enemy.
Gunner Grant Michael Guy, 29 Cdo Regiment RA—Guy is awarded for his extreme bravery and utter selflessness.
In spite of his junior rank, he helped the company prevail by taking charge at critical moments of a desperate situation.
Guy repeatedly placed himself in extreme danger in order to extract a comrade from the killing area.
Mention In Despatches.
Leading Medical Assistant Richard Hogben, Royal Navy, seconded to 45 Cdo—Demonstrating courage and professionalism, his selfless devotion to duty in order to save lives was remarkable.
Marine David George Middlemas, Rifleman—In December 2008, after his joint patrol had suffered an IED strike and were engaged by the enemy, his actions in going to the aid of fallen comrades were exemplary.
Corporal Scott Muir, Section Commander—Inspirational gallantry from a fine JNCO.
He steadied his team, remained composed and took command. Displaying abundant courage and consistent leadership, he set a first- class example.
Marine Iain Andrew Penrose, Zulu Company—He displayed a complete disregard for his own safety, remaining composed and utterly professional, until he had cleared a way for his section to extract safely after they were ambushed.
Major Nigel John Powell Somerville MBE, Officer Commanding Victor Company—He led his isolated company from the front, demonstrating outstanding drive and unswerving determination.
Moulding a disparate team into a highly professional and extremely effective fighting unit, through personal courage and steadfast leadership he imbued his troops with fighting spirit and instilled confidence throughout periods of extreme danger.
His tactical acumen, imagination and single-minded determination achieved truly remarkable success.
Acting Sergeant Jason Paul Walker, Provost Battle Group Liaison Officer/Detachment Commander—His positive and enduring contribution was exceptional.
Often exposed to great personal danger, he repeatedly demonstrated bravery of the highest order.
Tireless and dedicated, he was a superb asset to the company and battle group.
Corporal Andrew Watt, Section Commander—Displaying a fine appreciation of the wider tactical situation, he set a fine example.
Demonstrating the highest levels of courage, he was unswerving in his selfless determination to support his colleagues and save lives.
A Military Cross was also awarded to Lieutenant James Philip Adamson of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Adamson’s supreme physical courage, combined with the calm leadership he continued to display after a very close encounter with the Taliban, were of the very highest order.
His actions also neutralised an enemy flanking attack which could have resulted in casualties.
Two other members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Warrant Officer Class 2 Anthony Ronaldson and Sergeant Colin Marshall, were rewarded for service in Iraq.
Bradley Malone (23), of Newcastle, 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.
The acting corporal said receiving such a prestigious medal was a “humbling experience.”
He said, “We were surrounded and were taking fire.
“I realised the sergeant was stuck in the middle and was pinned down.
“I just went to give him some covering fire, to engage the enemy so he could get back. You don’t think about anything at the time, no emotions, you just get on with it.”
Meanwhile Steven Nethery, a 23-year-old general purpose machine gunner from Edinburgh, took every opportunity to go above and beyond the call of duty.
He ran, unarmed, under concentrated fire, to retrieve fellow marine Mark Hendry who had been shot in the leg, and carry him 250 yards to safety. He then braved the open ground a second time to prevent vital equipment falling into enemy hands.
Marine Nethery said, “I noticed that someone had been shot in the leg. I gave my weapon to one of the boys and just dashed down to him.
“I pulled him around the corner of a wall to get out of the line of fire,” he said.
“While he was being treated by a medic, I ran back out to get his kit before carrying him back.
“I was just doing my job, doing what we were trained to do, the same as any of the other boys would have done.”
A large contingent from RM Condor was at a special media event hosted by the Ministry of Defence in Plymouth yesterday, including recently departed commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris, who received a Distinguished Service Order for his “outstanding leadership, direction and support for his men.”
It emerged yesterday that the commander of Task Force Helmand during Operation HERRICK 9, Dundee-born Brigadier Gordon Messenger, was having a Bar added to his DSO, the first time this has occurred in the naval service since 1957.
The bravery awards brought a glowing tribute from Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell yesterday.
Mr Rammell said the marines had taken “their place in the illustrious hall of Angus military heroes,” having brought “security to areas which had not seen security for many years.”
He praised their operations in Helmand Province to tackle the drugs trade, train the Afghan army and police and suppress the Taliban.
“That effort, made with such sacrifice, has now been rightly recognised through a swathe of operational awards announced today. They are richly deserved.”
The awards for the men of 45 Commando include one Distinguished Service Order (DSO), two CGCs, three MBEs, three Military Crosses (MC), and seven Mentions in Despatches (MiD).
The new commanding officer of 45 Commando, Lt Col Oliver Lee, said, “This is a very proud day for 45 Commando. Our marines in Arbroath are amongst the best in the world and these awards are well deserved. The men had a tough tour of duty in Afghanistan, but they rose to the challenge, took the fight to the Taliban, showed astonishing bravery, and made real progress in Helmand.”