A Cumbrian soldier who took on the role of his absent officer to deliver vital supplies to one of the deadliest regions in southern Afghanistan has been awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS) in the latest Operational Honours and Awards.
Sgt Lee Topliss from Maryport serves with the Royal Logistic Corps. He was an acting sergeant during his six-month deployment. But when his troop commander went away on a course, Lee had to assume responsibility at least four ranks above his own, leading combat logistic patrols in areas such as Helmand’s notorious Nad e-ali district.
Tasked with heading up the Immediate Replenishment Group for more than half his deployment, Lee and his team of 15-20 personnel braved the daily threat of small arms’ attack and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Now promoted to sergeant, 35-year-old Lee – known as Toppy to his friends – recalls:
– Sgt Topliss
“We travelled in convoys of 10 trucks to resupply patrol bases and forward operating bases. It was extremely dangerous.
“Every single day of our deployment we had to face coming under small arms’ fire, IEDs and brick-slinging.
“Even travelling in the Green Zone at night was hazardous because the area is criss-crossed with canals, which have extremely steep banks. Thankfully, we didn’t have any incidents there.
“One of the scariest moments during the tour was when we were travelling in convoy and a message came over the radio ordering all vehicles within the area to stop immediately as there had been a report that the route on which we were travelling had been seeded with IEDs.
“We discovered that a big IED was just 20 feet in front of us. We had to extract from the area while the bomb disposal experts dealt with it, but it was a close call.”
Lee’s citation reads:
– Lee's citation for the award
‘Almost every day, for three and a half months, he doggedly led his team alongside his infantry comrades on arduous and precarious routes ensuring the soldiers in small checkpoints and patrol bases received their resupply.
‘Under threat from attack every time, he led his Immediate Replenishment Group through some of the most difficult driving conditions in Afghanistan; whether along the narrow byways of the Green Zone or out across the desert, he dealt with incidents with resolute composure and redoubtable courage.’
After learning about his award, Lee said:
– Sgt Lee Topliss
“I was called in to see my commander, and my first thought was that I was in trouble… although I couldn’t see what I’d done wrong!
“When I was told that I’d been awarded the QCVS it was a complete surprise. As far as I was concerned I was just doing my job.”
He attended Netherall School in Maryport before joining the Army in 1996. After basic training he was posted to 10 Regiment RLC in Colchester, and completed operational tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Lee is married with four daughters and now works as a quad bike instructor teaching casualty extraction in the Special Training Division at the Defence School of Transport –Europe’s largest driving school – at Leconfield, near Beverley in Humberside.
His father Joseph Topliss lives in Frizington, near Whitehaven.