Private Morales Matthews, who saved a colleague whilst under fire has been recognised for his heroism with a Mention in Despatches.
In November last year, Private Matthews, of 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, was on patrol in what was one of the last remaining insurgent strongholds in Nad-e Ali when the soldiers were ambushed from several positions with small arms fire and grenades.
As the patrol sought cover, Morales and two others moved to the east to identify the enemy positions and ensure the patrol was not overrun. But as the three ran across an open patch of ground they were attacked from another position 100 metres away.
As bullets landed all around them, one of the soldiers fell to the floor, apparently wounded. Rather than seek the safety of the wall in front of him, Morales vaulted it and raced to the casualty’s aid.
In view of insurgents
The 33-year-old former pupil of Emmanuel High in Kingston, a dad of one, said: “My first thought was that he was dead. I called out his name three or four times but he didn’t respond.
“I felt angry. I was also in a vulnerable position. I had a light machine gun which can put down a heavy rate of fire.
“I knew I had to be aggressive to protect my comrade, if he was still alive, and myself. After firing on the enemy, I had to get to him. He was conscious, so I felt relief and my focus then was to get him to safety.”
Under constant fire, he adopted a position close to his colleague and returned fire, neutralising the threat and silencing the enemy position. This allowed the second soldier to run forward and extract their dazed but unhurt colleague.
Morales, from the Caribbean island of St Vincent, covered their withdrawal, remaining in the open and in view of the insurgents throughout.
For his gallantry under fire he is awarded a Mention in Despatches.
'Neutralised the enemy'
His citation states: “Matthews’ actions were without regard for his own safety and were carried out in the face of extreme danger to save his friend and comrade. He knowingly exposed himself to the enemy and, perhaps of more significance, he remained calm, adopted a firing position and accurately identified and neutralised the enemy
“These actions effectively saved their colleague from wounding or death and allowed the patrol to safely extract from the engagement and back to their checkpoint.”
Morales added the tour was a complete success. He said: “We engaged a lot with the locals and gained their trust. We helped with humanitarian projects such as addressing the water shortage, we drove the enemy from the area and enable Afghans to take control of their own security.
“Every objective we set out to achieve, we did and everyone I deployed with came home to our loved ones.”
The Mention in Despatches is one of the oldest forms of recognition for gallantry within the UK Armed Forces. Since 1993 the Mention in Despatches has been reserved for gallantry during active operations.
The announcement was made today with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list which includes 106 personnel. The awards are for actions roughly during the period 1 September 2011 to March 31 2012 during Operation HERRICK 15.
Morales is one of 31 MiD recipients on the list.