“I don’t get to give this one out very often. Well done.” And with those touching words The Queen pinned the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour, onto the tunic of Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey. He is the first living serviceman to receive the medal for service in Afghanistan.
Paratrooper Joshua Leakey was presented with his Victoria Cross during an investiture in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle. Speaking of the ceremony Lance Corporal Leakey VC said the medal was a ‘great honour.’ He insisted it was for everyone in his regiment and battalion, adding that ‘the lads..know this isn’t something you seek out. You just do what you deem necessary on the day, and anyone of them could be standing where I am today’.
He was watched by his parents, Mark and Rosemary Leakey, his grandparents and his brother, Ben, as his citation for bravery was read out. He then stepped up to meet The Queen, who spent several minutes chatting with the Lance Corporal before presenting him with his VC.
Joshua Leakey VC was recognised for showing outstanding bravery after running through enemy fire to help a wounded American soldier. He then braved the same fire to set up a machine gun and then went through the attack again to establish a second machine gun. The Army said that Lance Corporal Leakey’s actions had ‘single handedly regained the initiative and prevented considerable loss of life.’
The announcement that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross was made in February 2015. He is the first living recipient since 2005 when Johnson Beharry was recognised for his bravery during the Iraq conflict. Two other soldiers who fought in Afghanisation have been awarded the VC, but both those medals were given posthumously.
Lance Corporal Leakey VC isn’t the first member of his family to receive the award. During World War Two, his second cousin twice removed was given a posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions in Abyssinia in 1941. Joshua Leakey later said that it was it was ‘massively humbling to be put among all those people who have received the VC in the past’.
The Queen looked proud as she handed across this latest Medal, a simple bronze cross bearing the words ‘For Valour’. The Victoria Cross has been awarded just eleven times in her reign and on five of those occasions the awards were posthumous. So it was little wonder that the Queen felt compelled to tell Joshua Leakey just how special the moment was with those simple but poignant words – ‘I don’t get to give this one out very often’.
Photo credit: UK Ministry of Defence via Flickr