L/Cpl James Ashworth killed by his own grenade, inquest finds

L/Cpl James Ashworth
Image caption L/Cpl James Ashworth was described as 'the bravest of soldiers, the best of men'

A soldier awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross was killed by his own grenade during an enemy attack in Afghanistan, an inquest has found.

L/Cpl James Ashworth, from Corby, Northamptonshire, was killed as he stormed an insurgent position in Nahr-e-Saraj in Helmand Province last June.

The inquest ruled he was unlawfully killed when a shot hit his body armour, detonating a grenade he was carrying.

The 23-year-old was preparing to throw the grenade at an enemy sniper.

Anne Pember, the Northamptonshire Coroner, told the inquest at Kettering that a post-mortem examination revealed the cause of death as blast injuries caused by an explosion.

L/Cpl Ashworth, of 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, died as he crawled along ground being peppered with bullets to throw his last grenade at a sniper who had his team pinned down.

'We'll stay strong'

Speaking after the inquest, his mother Kerry said her son, only the second soldier to be awarded a VC for bravery in Afghanistan, had died doing the job he loved.

"His smile can light up any room he goes into and we all love and miss him so," she said.

"James passed away doing a job he loved. At times it was a hard job but he did get to experience new countries, learn new skills and make some wonderful friends.

"James will be forever be in our hearts, thoughts and prayers and we will never get over his passing.

"But we will stay strong together as a family and along with his friends we will remain positive and celebrate his life at every opportunity as I know that is what he would want us to do."

His commanding officer Lt Col James Bowder said he was "the bravest of soldiers, the best of men".

As well as the VC, L/Cpl Ashworth had a square named after him in Corby.

Platoon commander Capt Michael Dobbin described how an operation had been ordered to "kill or capture" a skilled Taliban sniper team which had shot and wounded three British soldiers in the preceding days.

"L/Cpl Ashworth suggested that if he moved along a low wall, he would be out of line of sight," said Capt Dobbin.

"He was confident he could get the grenade in the doorway, allowing me and Capt Davis to assault the position.

Grenade 'already primed'

"In the space of about two seconds we heard a cry of warning, then the rounds came in, then an enormous explosion."

He said there were "no signs of life" from L/Cpl Ashworth and the insurgent was killed minutes later.

L/Cpl Ashworth was airlifted and pronounced dead on arrival at the field hospital at Camp Bastion.

A post-mortem examination revealed numerous "blast fragment wounds" to his head and body, with forensic pathologist Dr Nicolas Hunt stating he "would not expect him to survive" the wounds sustained.

He added that there would have been "virtually instantaneous loss of consciousness".

The bullet was of the calibre fired from AK47-type weapons favoured by the Taliban, the inquest heard.

Mrs Pember, giving her verdict, said: "James bravely volunteered to throw the last grenade.

"He crouched down by a wall and sadly his body armour was struck by a single gunshot which knocked him to the ground.

"The grenade he had was already primed and detonated next to him."

She added that L/Cpl Ashworth was "one of only 10 soldiers to receive the highest honour for gallantry since the Second World War".

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