We have our first Victoria Cross winner since 2012. The newest winner was awarded the British armies highest honour after he took part in a joint rescue of UK and US forces; the combined forces were in danger of being overrun by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey will be only the second British soldier to win the award since 1982.
Lance Corporal Leakey, 27, was representing the Parachute Regiment, and was forced to run across an exposed hillside which was being riddle with machine-gun fire. He made the exposed journey three times. He was able to arrange the evacuation of casualties, rally his comrades, return fire and retake the initiative from the enemy. Eleven Taliban fighters were killed during the conflict.
This will mark only the 15th time the award, the highest in Britain’s armed forces, has been given since the Second World War. To add another twist to this already remarkable story, heroism appears to run in the Leakey family. Almost 70 years ago another member of Leakey’s family won the Victoria Cross. His second cousin twice removed, Nigel Leakey, was posthumously awarded the medal during the Second World War.
Nigel Leakey was awarded his Victoria Cross for leaping on to a tank opening the hatch and killing the enemy combatants in the tank before making the Italian driver take him to cover in the tank.
Leakey, from Hampshire, will be at a ceremony at Lancaster House in London along with 13 others receiving medals in recognition of their courage and service. He will receive the medal at a later ceremony. When asked about his famous family Leakey said, “It’s from my dad’s side of the family. They are all very military-orientated. There’s been someone in the military from every generation that I know of. I’ve got a bit of a mad family, you could say. There’s a lot of eccentric people.”
The event which Leakey is receiving his medal for was a helicopter raid on the Taliban stronghold at Bar Now Zad in Helmand on 22 August 2013. On leaving the helicopters, the UK and US forces immediately found themselves pinned down by machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
A US Marine Corps captain was shot and their communications were put out of action. After almost an hour, Leakey ran across the hillside, upon reaching the crest he saw comrades from two machine-gun teams surrounded by about 20 Taliban who would be unable to provide covering fire for his run.
He was the most junior member of the group on this mission, but he took control. He gave triage to the wounded US captain and began the process of evacuation. He went back down the hill, took control of one of the machine-guns position, even though he was being fired upon at the time, with bullets ricocheting off its frame.
David Cameron said of Leakey’s actions, “When you hear how events unfolded and the intensity of enemy fire, it is difficult to imagine how one wouldn’t be frozen to the spot and yet Lance Corporal Leakey risked his life to run across that barren hillside not just once, but multiple times, to turn the battle and save the lives of comrades.”
For this act of heroism and saving the lives of his comrades we all can be proud of Lance Corporal Leakey and hopefully his act of heroism will be remembered and celebrated.