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  1. ITV Report

Comrades describe last moments of Victoria Cross Afghanistan soldier

Lance Corporal James Ashworth. Photo: MoD

The inquest into Lance Corporal James Ashworth, who received a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery in Afghanistan, has heard that he showed extraordinary bravery and selflessness during an operation that would take his life.

He was on sent into an Afghan village to "kill or capture" Taliban insurgents. He was part of team from Grenadier Guards who ended up in a fire fight with the enemy during which Lance Corporal Ashworth was blown up in a fatal explosion. He was attempted to throw a grenade by hand into a room when he killed.

Guardsman Lance Corporal Gareth Wint wiped away tears as he described how he had tried to cover his fellow soldier but couldn't save him. He said his friend, who he called "Ash", had volunteered to crawl along a low wall and throw the grenade because he " had decided this contact was not achieving anything." He had shouted at Ash to "get out of there" when he saw small arms fire fall just feet away from him but Lance Corporal Ashworth ignored him. He told the inquest that he couldn't see clearly because of red smoke but realised that there had been an explosion and thought he had possibly triggered an IED.

Captain Gareth Davis was also with Ashworth and he described how he looked as though he was about to prime the grenade ready to throw it when he was caught by the explosion. Capt Davis, who spoke the local language, tried to persuade the insurgent holed up in the room, to come out. But he told the inquest that he returned "a torrent of abuse" and he assumed the fighter was high on amphetamines.

Captain Michael Dobbin was awarded the Military Cross. Credit: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

The commanding officer on the operation Captain Michael Dobbin told how Ashworth, Davis and he moved shoulder to shoulder down the corridor towards the last insurgent - two others had already been killed.

Described how they discussed their options for clearing the compound which he admitted is always "very dangerous operation".

Capt Dobbin insisted he looked at other options but couldn't use a grenade launcher because a tree was in the way, couldn't use the rocket launcher because there would have been close quarter blast injuries to their men and couldn't use attack helicopter because it may have caused friendly fire casualties on their side.

Lance Corporal Ashworth's brother and mother received his Victoria Cross on his behalf. Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

These were explanations that Lance Corporal Ashworth's family appeared to accept, as they chose to ask no questions during the evidence. Afterwards his mother, Kerry, spoke about how proud they were of his actions.

The coroner Anne Pember recorded a verdict of death by unlawful killing during military action.