The two Victoria Crosses won by paratroopers in Afghanistan have gone on display as part of a new exhibition about Airborne Forces’ operations in the country.
Corporal Josh Leakey VC and Colonel Graham Livingstone, Deputy Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, today officially opened the exhibition at Airborne Assault – The Museum of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces at IWM Duxford.
The Victoria Cross is the highest award for gallantry, awarded to all ranks of the services and civilians for gallantry in the presence of the enemy. Corporal Bryan Budd VC, of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his "inspirational leadership and supreme valour" during heavy fighting as British troops moved into Helmand in 2006.
Cpl Bryan Budd VC - "inspirational leadership and supreme valour"
Cpl Leakey VC was decorated for singlehandedly preventing considerable loss of life during an assault into a Taliban stronghold in 2013. He was serving as part of a taskforce conducting operations to disrupt insurgent safe-havens in Helmand.
Cpl Leakey VC said: “I am honoured to represent my Regiment in this way and see my medal alongside Corporal Bryan Budd’s as the two VCs won by paratroopers in Afghanistan. This exhibition is not just about these two medals but about the thousands of Airborne soldiers who served throughout the long campaign. The Regiment has displayed the same traits that our forefathers in the Second World War displayed and we hope to continue living up to our reputation long into the future, whatever it may hold. Utrinque Paratus.”
Troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade, the British Army’s airborne rapid reaction force, deployed to Afghanistan four times. In 2002 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment provided security in Kabul after the overthrow of the Taliban and in 2006 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment were the first British troops to move into Helmand Province. The full Brigade deployed in 2008 and 2010-11, working to improve the security situation in Helmand and support the training of Afghan National Security Forces.
Across the four tours, the Brigade lost 58 soldiers and its troops were awarded 351 decorations for their courage and service.
Currently, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles is serving in Kabul as part of the UK’s enduring support to the Afghan Government. Their mission is to protect NATO military and civilian advisers working in government ministries, as well as UK advisers based at the Afghan National Army Officers’ Academy.
Colonel Graham Livingstone, Deputy Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: “Operations in Afghanistan are, and continue to be, a significant chapter in the history of Airborne Forces. From 2 PARA’s first deployment in 2002 to the ongoing work of 2 RGR, our soldiers have worked with great dedication and bravery in demanding circumstances to fulfil the mission asked of them. All who have served in Afghanistan should be immensely proud of what they have achieved as an important episode in the history of Airborne Forces that is so well displayed in the Airborne Assault museum.”