In August 2012, Lance Corporal Christopher Morton, aged 42, from 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, was attached to 3rd Battalion The Rifles as part of a Police Advisory Team in Nad ‘Ali when his patrol’s lead vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.
Lance Corporal Morton, a window fitter in his civilian life, moved his vehicle to provide cover before checking for casualties. He helped the stricken crew, including the gunner who had suffered a leg injury, but the platoon commander was then hit by what would prove to be a fatal gunshot.
Lance Corporal Morton again moved his vehicle to provide further cover and took over treatment of the commander, but his second-in-command was then also shot. With both officers incapacitated, Lance Corporal Morton took control and ordered his driver and gunner to continue treating the 2 wounded officers.
He then put the injured gunner in a position where he could fire on the insurgents. Lance Corporal Morton said:
We went out on patrol with 12 soldiers but, with 3 men injured, and people treating those that were injured, as well as having someone on the radio, it left me effectively with 5. This was the worst situation we could have found ourselves in. I was wondering where this was going to end; could this day get any worse?
By assuming the role of commander Lance Corporal Morton was able to rally his men until reinforcements arrived. His citation reads:
Morton’s exemplary actions on this day successfully regained control of a potentially catastrophic situation. Under fire and leaderless, Morton’s gallantry saved the day.
But Lance Corporal Morton said:
The command was easy because of the reaction of the blokes; they were all really, really good.
Lance Corporal Morton has served in the Territorial Army since 2008 and this was his second tour of Afghanistan. He said:
I had always wanted to join the Army but I had a family and steady job so I gave up on the idea until a friend served with the TA in Iraq and that got me interested in the Reserves.
It’s hard for people to understand what a TA soldier needs to go through to be deployed. But after a couple of months of pre-deployment training with your regular unit I think it’s hard to tell the difference between TA and regular soldiers.
Lance Corporal Morton, from Belfast, is one of 24 soldiers who have been awarded a Mention in Despatches in the latest Operational Honours and Awards List. When he heard about his honour, he couldn’t quite believe it:
I thought it was a wind-up because it was St Patrick’s Day the following day! It’s great to be recognised but, if I could give this award to everyone who was there on that day, I would.
The Mention in Despatches is one of the oldest forms of recognition for gallantry within the UK Armed Forces. Since 1993 the Mention in Despatches has been reserved for gallantry during active operations.