A soldier who displayed extreme valour while seriously injured by a gunshot wound to the neck is among those recognised for bravery on operations today as the operational honours and awards list is revealed.
Lance Corporal Simon Moloney of the Household Cavalry Regiment repeatedly faced sustained insurgent fire while continuing to provide protection to his comrades for 90 minutes, in temperatures in excess of 40 degrees following a serious injury to his neck.
During a helicopter assault operation, Lance Corporal Moloney’s troop and its Afghan Army partners landed in darkness deep in an insurgent stronghold. At first light they broke into their target compound and were soon met by sporadic fire. Moloney and a machine-gunner were tasked to provide over watch from the domed compound roof to allow the troop to move onto another target. Not long into the attack, Moloney suffered a gunshot wound to the neck which missed his vital arteries and voice box by millimetres, but the force of which threw him off the roof. A medic applied first aid to Moloney who, realising the seriousness of the situation, re-occupied his position, identifying and engaging enemy positions, immediately bringing the fire support under control.
Shouting through the effects of his throat injury and over the crack of enemy rounds, Moloney passed critical target information to win the firefight, only breaking contact when ordered to seek medical attention. Without his gallantry and skill in the ruthless suppression of the enemy, it is likely that his troop would have sustained multiple casualties.
For his efforts, Lance Corporal Moloney receives a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and his story is just one example of the many tales of courage, which were shared today as scores of other personnel from all three services were honoured at the event. Moloney’s was one of 117 awards for gallantry and meritorious service included in Operational Honours List 42, which covers the period between April and October 2013.
Many of those recognised served with 1 Mechanized Brigade which deployed to Afghanistan in April 2013. But the awards also highlight acts of courage and dedication in other areas, such as Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Neil Halsey whose brave actions stopped a stricken tug from sinking, averting a major environmental disaster.
CPO Halsey led a three-man team onto a sinking tug off the coast of Torbay following a mayday signal received by HMS Lancaster, which was operating nearby. After arriving at the Christos XXII he immediately assessed that without action the tug would have broken up, sending more than 200 tonnes of diesel in the direction of Torbay. CPO Halsey made the brave decision to get on board a sinking boat and then repeatedly immersed himself in a pitch-black, unfamiliar engine room with oily water up to his shoulders and only a torch to guide him in a bid to find the source of the leak.
Once he found the hole he hammered in softwood wedges to stem the flow and activated two pumps to flush the water out. Staying on board the tug for more than six hours throughout the night and, despite numbed hands from freezing waters which made gripping hammers virtually impossible and, the constant danger of the tug capsizing, Halsey kept morale of his two team members high and repeatedly led from the front until the arrival of the salvage boat. For these actions CPO Halsey has been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.
Another act of bravery came from the RAF’s Flight Lieutenant Charlie Lockyear, 34 from Teignmouth, and Master Aircrew (MACR) Bob Sunderland, 44 from Englefield Green, who landed their Chinook helicopter under fire from Afghan insurgents.
Flt Lt Lockyear, the Captain, was given the Distinguished Flying Cross while MACR Sunderland was awarded a Mention in Dispatches. The crew were inserting British forces into a high-threat area of Afghanistan on Sunday, 5 May 2013 when they came under fire from nearby insurgents. Flying shrapnel wounded MACR Sunderland, leaving him bleeding from the groin, while further rounds disabled the aircraft’s radio and intercom systems.
With a hail of bullets hitting the Chinook, Flt Lt Lockyear was forced to abort the landing and move the helicopter away from the enemy fire. But with no working radio, he was unaware that some British troops had already left the aircraft and were on the ground returning fire.
Advised on the extent of the damage by MACR Sunderland, Flt Lt Lockyear carefully re-landed the Chinook and evacuated the remaining troops on the ground, with MACR Sunderland doggedly returning suppressing fire from the helicopter’s gun.
Despite the structural and electrical damage to the helicopter, including bullet damage to the rotor blades, Flt Lt Lockyear guided the aircraft back to Camp Bastion’s hospital, where the injured were treated and the aircraft shut down.
Armed Forces Minister, Mark Francois MP, said:
“With the end of our combat mission on the horizon as the Afghan forces assume the lead for security operations across the country, the courage and bravery of UK Forces deployed there remains constant and undiminished. Those featured in this Operational Honours List have displayed exceptional dedication and commitment to their country, their comrades and the mission. For this, they deserve our recognition and gratitude.”