SOLDIERS from South Yorkshire told of their heroic efforts in Afghanistan after being handed campaign medals by The Duke of York.
About 30 members of the Territorial Army’s Fourth Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, which has bases in Sheffield and Barnsley, travelled to York Racecourse to be honoured by Prince Andrew, who congratulated the troops and said they had ‘done us all proud’.
The reservists had a tough tour and had to cope with the loss of one of their members, Pte Matthew Thornton, 28, from Darton, Barnsley, who was killed by a bomb last November.
Among those receiving his medal was Sheffield Hallam University international business graduate Private Chris Clarke, who only joined the TA in 2010 before being deployed last Autumn.
Based in the Nahr-e Saraj and Nad Ali areas of Helmand Province, the 27-year-old was out on security patrol seven days a week, sometimes for as long as 36 hours at a time.
One of his most difficult situations was in the aftermath of an improvised explosive device which killed Pte John King, aged 19, of 1 Yorks, and left a colleague injured.
Pte Clarke was part of a casualty evacuation team which had to rush to the scene and managed to save the second soldier - despite the enemy being close at hand and the risk of other bombs being buried nearby.
He said: “I had been on the roof of a building to talk to colleagues when rounds started whizzing past my head. I got down and there was a large explosion. We ran flat out to the casualties.”
Pte King and the second soldier, who was unconscious and had shrapnel wounds, were put onto stretchers and taken on quad bikes to a safe area to receive first aid and be evacuated by helicopter.
Pte Clarke said: “You don’t really think about your safety when you hear your mates crying out, you just run to help help them.”
Pte Clarke, who was living in the city centre before his deployment, revealed he had other close shaves, including when bullets started landing feet from where he was patrolling. He managed to take cover and keep insurgents at bay while waiting for air support.
Meanwhile, seasoned veteran Corporal David Evans, 45, from Kimberworth, who has previously served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, was in the Nad Ali area, also carrying out security patrols and working with the Afghan National Army and Police.
He had to deal with incidents including being among the first to provide first aid to a seven-year-old Afghan boy wounded in a bomb blast, who later died.
But a highlight of his tour involved an unusual proposal to partner, Jan French.
David, who was out at a patrol base in the desert, said: “She had booked a hotel for when I was back on RnR, for ‘Mr and Mrs Evans’ and I made a joke on the phone. She emailed back asking ‘is that a proposal’ and I said ‘yes’.”