British soldier to be awarded rare Victoria Cross honour

Lance Corporal James Ashworth of 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards. Photo: MoD/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

A British soldier who died as he protected the lives of his comrades in Afghanistan is to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Lance Corporal James Ashworth, who was 23 when he died, will receive the medal in recognition of his "extraordinary courage" while serving with the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards in Helmand Province last year, The Times (£) reported.

The Victoria Cross, the UK's highest award for gallantry, has been awarded just 10 times to British soldiers since the Second World War.

The posthumous award to L/Cpl Ashworth is just the second awarded to a soldier in the 12-year conflict.

ITV News correspondent Sejal Karia reports:

The 23-year-old soldier from Kettering in Northamptonshire was killed in the Nahr-e-Siraj district of Afghanistan.

L/Cpl Ashworth is understood to have deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire, when his reconnaissance platoon became involved in a battle with the Taliban inside enemy held compounds. He died from a grenade blast as he tried to protect his men.

The repatriation ceremony for Lance Corporal James Ashworth. Credit: Sgt Russ Nolan RLC/MoD/PA Wire

His comrades spoke of their pride in his bravery and said the death of such an "outstanding soldier" would leave a gaping hole in the battalion.

Lance Corporal Ashworth was killed while fighting his way through compounds; leading his fire team from the front, whilst trying to protect his men; and he showed extraordinary courage to close on a determined enemy.

– CAPTAIN MIKE DOBBIN SPEAKING AT THE TIME OF L/CPL ASHWORTH'S DEATH

The Victoria Cross is the nation's highest award for gallantry, along with the George Cross.

It is awarded for "most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy".

The award will be officially confirmed by the Ministry of Defence next week.

Read more: Tributes paid to soldier killed in Afghanistan