Honours for Wirral soldier who fought with broken back

Corporal Josh Griffiths Credit: PA

A Wirral soldier who battled Afghan insurgents who had invaded his base despite having a broken back has been awarded one of the highest honours for gallantry.

Corporal Josh Griffiths, from the Mercian Regiment, receives the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in the latest round of Operational Honours.

The 24-year-old was getting ready to eat his evening meal at his ISAF patrol base in Nad-e Ali when a pick-up truck driven by a suicide bomber burst through the wall of the base and exploded.

Leaving a 40m gap in the perimeter wall, it was the start of an attack that was to last for several hours.

Cpl Griffiths, from Eastham, Wirral, Merseyside, was injured by the blast but as Afghan insurgents began to attack the base, fought back to keep them out.

"This was near the end of the tour, I had 23 days to go," he said.

"I remember what the food was supposed to be that night, it was beef stir fry, we could smell it," he said. "It was probably the nicest food we were going to have.

"I was thrown around as well as everyone else and the next thing I remember it was dark and I was on my back. I heard one of the lads scream out."

He helped his colleagues and returned fire, protecting fellow wounded soldiers from insurgents who were spraying bullets at them and throwing grenades, while another attacker was firing rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) from the field outside the base.

His efforts stopped the attackers at the wall of the base, and allowed the casualties to be evacuated, his citation said.

And as other soldiers arrived to help, rather than stepping back, he insisted on fighting on to make sure the base was secure.

It was only afterwards that he realised he not only had damaged his eye, but had also broken his back in the original explosion caused when the vehicle hit the base.

"I had broken my fourth vertebrae," he said. "At the time, when the explosion happened, I thought my back was a bit weird but I heard lads screaming so the job just took over and I pushed forward, treated them and pushed forward again.

"I think adrenaline kicked in, I think I actually ran faster."

He had also injured his eye, and still sees flashing lights sometimes, he said.

"One of the lads saw my eye and said, 'oh you've been hit in the face'.

"I hadn't realised because when I was firing I was using my right eye, and it was my left."

The incident on March 25 left one colleague dead and 14 wounded, including Cpl Griffiths, in what he described as the biggest camp attack he has experienced despite serving previously in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq and Northern Ireland.

The 24-year-old, who is still undergoing physiotherapy, said he is dying to get back to work.

Cpl Griffiths, whose brother is a paratrooper, said it had been a complete surprise to get the honour.

" It's a great honour obviously to be recognised, but we lost a lad that day so I would rather that hadn't happened than I get the award.

" I am lucky to get what I got, but the company as a whole did an amazing job."

The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, just one level below the Victoria Cross, is awarded to all ranks in recognition of acts of conspicuous gallantry during active operations against the enemy.

Lt Will Boreham of the Duke of Lancs Regiment who comes from Nantwich in Cheshire, was also honoured for his bravery , receiving the Military Cross