Honour for wounded Iraq war hero
By Michael Evans, Defence Editor
A BRITISH Army sergeant, wounded in the hand and firing his weapon with one arm, rallied his platoon to fight off 150 armed Iraqis in one of the fiercest and until now unreported gunbattles of the operation in southern Iraq.
Yesterday Sergeant Paul Kelly, 36, was told that he had been awarded the Military Cross for his truly inspirational leadership under fire.
The two-hour confrontation between the platoon of 28 soldiers and 150 Iraqis, some of them armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns, is one of many attacks on British troops since the war officially ended on May 1 last year.
Sergeant Kelly, of The Princess of Waless Royal Regiment, won his MC for his courage in two separate attacks in February and March this year.
Sergeant Kelly was wounded in the southern Iraqi village of Qal At Salih in March. He and his platoon, which was attached to the 1st Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, had gone there to help a Light Infantry unit that was under attack after arresting four local policemen.
Sergeant Kelly, who is married with two children, described yesterday how the officer commanding the Light Infantry unit ordered him to remove barricades which local people had set up. As he did so, he was shot in the hand and one of his Land Rovers was destroyed by a grenade, wounding one of his men.
This (the attack) went on for hours and in the end we ran out of ammunition and had to use AK47s we found in the house to fire back at them; a large number of Iraqis were killed, Sergeant Kelly said.
He believed that after the arrest of the policemen who had been firing at the Light Infantry soldiers, a call had gone out through the local mosque for people to grab weapons and take on coalition troops who, it was claimed, were attacking the police station.
Sergeant Kelly and his men were finally rescued when a number of Warrior armoured infantry vehicles arrived in the village. He and the other wounded were airlifted to a field hospital, although he had to be evacuated back to Britain for further treatment. Two months later he was back in Iraq and involved in further firefights.More than 80 servicemen and women are today honoured for their part in missions around the world. 41 of them for courage and leadership in Iraq.
The Military Cross has also been awarded to Sergeant Kajiman Limbu of The Royal Gurkha Rifles who, with five other soldiers, went to the rescue of an ambushed American convoy in Afghanistan.
A Hereford-based SAS soldier is to be awarded the rare Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his part in tracking down Saddam Hussein.