A former Christ’s Hospital pupil has been awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during a combat mission in Afghanistan in 2013.
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey, 27, of the Parachute Regiment, who attended the school outside Horsham from 1999-2006, was one of many service personnel to be honoured at a ceremony in Lancaster House yesterday (Wednesday February 25).
He received Britain’s highest award for gallantry in the presence of the enemy for the bravery he displayed during an assault on a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan in August 2013.
On leaving their helicopters, the combined US and UK force came under machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire, pinning down the command group on the exposed forward slope of a hill. For an hour the team attempted to extract from the killing zone; a Marine Corp Captain was shot and wounded and their communications were put out of action.
Josh said: “When you hear there’s a man down, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Clearly then your plans change.”
Realising the seriousness of the situation and with complete disregard for his own safety he dashed across a large area of barren hillside being raked with machine gun fire.
It’s massively humbling to put me alongside other people who have received this awardLance Corporal Joshua Leakey
As he crested the hill the full severity of the situation became apparent, as around 20 enemy insurgents had surrounded two friendly machine gun teams and a mortar section, rendering their critical fire support ineffective.
Under fire yet undeterred by the very clear and present danger, Josh ran across the exposed slope of the hill three times to initiate casualty evacuation, re-site machine guns and return fire.
His actions proved the turning point, inspiring his comrades to fight back with renewed ferocity.
Displaying gritty leadership well above that expected of his rank, Josh’s actions single-handedly regained the initiative and prevented considerable loss of life.
Josh said: “It’s massively humbling to put me alongside other people who have received this award.
“I’m conscious that there were other men on the ground that day who were doing their job just like everyone does. I see this as a massive honour for the Parachute Regiment as a whole. It is overwhelming. And I think it probably always will be.”
After meeting the recipients at Number 10 Downing Street Prime Minister David Cameron said: “It is absolutely right that Lance Corporal Leakey has been awarded a Victoria Cross.
“He epitomised valour with his actions on that hillside in Helmand. When you hear how events unfolded and the intensity of enemy fire, it is difficult to imagine how one wouldn’t be frozen to the spot and yet Lance Corporal Leakey risked his life to run across that barren hillside not just once, but multiple times, to turn the battle and save the lives of comrades.
“And that is why he deserves the highest honour for bravery the nation can give.”
Josh’s parents Mark and Rosie Leakey, said: “We are hugely proud of our son Josh and of the award he’s going to receive. We celebrate the occasion today with Josh’s mates, with his battalion and with the Parachute Regiment.
“As Josh’s parents we are so thankful to God that he survived that day – along with many other occasions during his three operational tours in Afghanistan. Our hearts go out to so many other parents whose sons and daughters did not survive that long conflict. ‘You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day…’ (Psalm 91 v 5).”
Josh’s brother Ben Leakey, added: “I have always been incredibly proud of my brother, for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration—regardless of the two letters that will now follow his name.
“In every sense, I have looked up to Josh for as long as I can remember, and will continue to do so far into the future as he returns to service life and his career as an airborne warrior in the Parachute Regiment.
“Josh has always known that this was his path in life, but with being awarded the Victoria Cross he has well exceeded even his own expectations. It is an honour and a blessing to be able to enjoy this spectacular moment with him.”
Lieutenant General John Lorimer, Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment, said: “Lance Corporal Leakey’s exemplary conduct in the face of heavy and accurate enemy fire typifies the spirit and ethos of the Parachute Regiment.
“On their behalf and as Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Lance Corporal Leakey on this singular and most deserved award. We are exceptionally proud of him.”