A soldier who led a bayonet charge over 80 metres of open ground through enemy fire has been awarded the Military Cross.
The gallant and tactical move by Corporal Sean Jones of 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1 PWRR) reversed a potentially dire situation when his patrol came under attack in a carefully planned ambush in October last year.
Corporal Jones, aged 25, from Tern Hill near Market Drayton in Shropshire, was second-in-command of the patrol, which was trying to draw out insurgents who were intimidating the local population of Kakaran village in Helmand. The insurgents were enforcing a curfew on the locals so they could plant improvised explosive devices under the cover of darkness.
As the patrol moved through an open field it came under heavy and accurate small arms fire from the north and east.
Corporal Jones said:
We were about to wrap up the operation and head back to the checkpoint. We were crossing a ditch when the shooting started.
I was just coming out of the ditch and most of the fire was coming at me. I hit the deck immediately. I have been shot at quite a few times and could tell the enemy was close. Gravel and dirt was flying up all around me from the bullets.
Caught in the killing area, and unable to advance into the hail of fire, the soldiers withdrew to the relative safety of the water-filled ditch to return fire but were effectively trapped as the insurgents moved in to try and overwhelm their position.
Corporal Jones said:
We had to react quickly. There was something different about this. It was obviously a well-planned ambush and they overwhelmed us with fire from three points initially.
Remaining static was not an option. Firing a rocket at one of the insurgent positions, Corporal Jones ordered three of his men to fix bayonets before breaking cover and leading them across 80 metres of open ground raked by enemy fire.
I asked them if they were happy. They were all quite young lads and the adrenalin was racing. I shouted ‘follow me’ and we went for it.
I got ‘Commander’s Legs’ on and was going very quickly. I realised I’d left them behind a bit, so had to slow down and was engaged again, so I organised my guys who started attacking the enemy firing points.
As two of the soldiers provided fire support, Corporal Jones prepared a hand grenade for the final assault. He raced towards an alley and was about to throw the grenade but realised the buildings were occupied so put the grenade away.
But the speed, aggression and audacity of his response caused the insurgents to fall back in disarray.
Sporadic enemy fire continued however, so Corporal Jones rallied his men to launch another assault just as the platoon commander and the rest of the patrol, who had been suppressing the other enemy position during the charge, rejoined the group.
The insurgents opted to melt away as a result of this unexpected reversal of their carefully-laid ambush.
Corporal Jones concluded:
We always said we want to pick our fight. We knew this was the time to do it. Before this, the locals were wary of us, but this showed they could trust us to protect them from the enemy and that we wouldn’t endanger them while doing it.
We built good relationships, chatting to them on patrols, kicking balls around with the children. They knew the Taliban could no longer enforce curfews on them and things got much better with their way of life.
Corporal Jones’s citation states:
In an engagement that lasted 29 minutes and which saw heavy and sustained insurgent fire throughout, Jones demonstrated unflinching courage and extraordinary leadership in the face of extreme and tangible danger.
Fighting a determined enemy force, on ground of their own choosing, he epitomised the best qualities of the British infantry - gritty determination, controlled aggression, tactical cunning and complete disregard for his own safety.
The Military Cross is awarded to all ranks of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF in recognition of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land.
The announcement was made on Friday with the release of the latest Operational Honours and Awards List which includes some 106 personnel. The awards are for actions taken during the period of Operation HERRICK 15 from 1 October 2011 to 31 March 2012. See Related News.
Corporal Jones is one of seven Military Cross recipients on the list.