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MC for Officer who rescued soldier under fire

26 February 2015

A soldier who rescued a disorientated colleague caught in crossfire before giving first aid to a badly wounded comrade while under intense enemy fire is to receive the Military Cross.

Captain William Hall, of the 16th Royal Regiment of Artillery, was on only his second mission with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) - a raid into the insurgent-held village of Kakaran.

After establishing the BRF tactical headquarters in a compound and spending the morning coordinating surveillance aircraft, the soldiers began to extract from the area when they were ambushed by several insurgent machine gunners.


Overwhelmed with shock

Initially the BRF held firm against the attack, from as close as 200-metres, to coordinate the continued extraction but soon became dangerously exposed.

The commander ordered a withdrawal but as they moved across open ground they came under constant machine gun fire for more than 30 seconds. Returning fire, the BRF sought shelter in a knee-deep ditch.

It was then that a non-commissioned officer (NCO), who was moving up the ditch line 20-metres behind Will, was struck in the head by a bullet. A second member of the team, between the fallen NCO and Will, was overwhelmed with shock and, oblivious to the fire passing around him, started to walk back calling out the wounded soldier’s name.

Will, aged 32, recalls the event: “Although we were under fire, I felt we were in control of the situation until the soldier was shot. He was just metres from me but the first I really knew of it was when the other NCO called his name.”


Accurate enemy rounds

Will reacted instantly. With rounds landing all around him and his disorientated comrade, he crawled back through the intense insurgent fire before the soldier was pulled into the ditch.

The former Bradfield College pupil, whose Army unit is based in Portsmouth, said: “I knew I had to get to the casualty but I needed to make sure the other soldier was ok as it was obvious he was not fully aware of the situation. I had a few choice words to snap him out of it but once he was out of the situation he continued to do an outstanding job for the rest of the time we were there.”

Exceptionally vulnerable to the high-rate and accurate enemy rounds, Will then crawled the 20 metres along the top of the ditch to the fallen NCO and for more than a minute, in full view of his assailants, gave emergency first aid and pulled the casualty into cover.

“It was clear it was serious and that we needed to get him out of the situation as quickly as possible. It is incredibly difficult trying to give first aid in those circumstances but your training does kick in.”


Ignored the risk

He then turned his attention to the enemy guns. After engaging with his own weapon, he started to call for artillery fire. With great courage, he exposed his head above the ditch to better identify the enemy position and to call for support from a 105mm light gun.

Pulling his binoculars from his day sack, Will ignored the risk of detection from the glint of the sun reflecting on the lenses and began observing as insurgent fire refocused on him for a third time. Rounds peppered the ground within five feet of his position. Undeterred, he continued to call for fire, withdrawing only when ordered to.

Will said: “This was my second tour but I spent the entire of the first in a forward operating base. This was only the second operation on this tour and my first ever enemy contact. Maybe this helped me to not be so aware of personal danger. You are aware when bullets are bouncing off the ground near you but you are so focused on trying to turn the situation to your advantage that you sort of block most things out.

“I honestly have no idea how long the whole incident took but talking to the other guys, it seems time becomes stretched and things happen a lot more quickly than they seem to at the time.”

Despite being told he is to receive such a high-level award, Will says his biggest honour was to work with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force. He said: “It is genuinely the proudest point of my life to serve with those guys. They are professional to the core.”


You never forget

Sadly, the wounded soldier died from his injuries. Will added: “It is the worst thing that can happen. It hits everybody incredibly hard and you never forget it or get over it but it is testament to the group that they carried on and did their jobs to the best of their abilities.”

While he was very surprised, humbled and proud to be told he was receiving the Military Cross, the news would also land him in hot water with his mum Val.
He said: “I didn’t want to worry her so I told her I had spent the whole tour on base again. After a few tears and a small punch, she came round to it and is really proud.”
Will’s citation states: “Very early on in his operational tour, Hall showed exceptional bravery. With a fellow soldier incapacitated by battle shock, he instantly put himself at great personal risk to pull him to safety.

“Without thought for his own life he continued to expose himself to accurate and intense enemy fire to treat his fallen comrade and to suppress an effective and deadly foe.”


Exemplary gallantry

The Military Cross is awarded for exemplary gallantry in the presence of the enemy during land operations.

The announcement was made today with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list which includes 140 personnel. The awards are principally for actions on Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan during the period October 2013 to June 2014.

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