A Retford soldier who defeated two fierce ambushes and risked his own life to protect Afghan civilians has been recognised for his heroism in the latest operational honours and awards list.
Corporal Jonathan McEwan, 32, of The Mercian Regiment, who is an instructor at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, has been awarded a Mention in Dispatches for his courage under fire during the two enemy attacks.
On 27th November last year Cpl McEwan was leading the front team of the Manoeuvre Support Group.
The patrol had come under small arms and grenade attacks throughout the morning while they cleared the insurgent dominated village of Haji Kareen.
Exploiting the momentum of the operation, the patrol moved across open ground to force their way into Washir, a village identified as an insurgent haven and command node.
Routes in were dominated by known enemy firing points which were used each time a patrol approached. The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threat was also particularly high. Two men from Zarawar had suffered amputations in the previous three weeks.
Within moments of leaving cover, the soldiers were fired at from a nearby compound. But rather than the natural response of taking cover, Cpl McEwan immediately seized the initiative, launching himself forward, firing as he ran and spurring his colleagues on with him.
The speed of his action took the insurgent by surprise, forcing him to withdraw. As he did so, a second insurgent engaged the group with a sustained burst of fire before he too had to retreat into the village. Cpl McEwan’s bold response broke the ambush before it could be fully sprung.
Just one week later, his patrol was tasked to clear the Wali Aka village, an area with a similarly high small arms and IED threat.
As they approached the village, gunfire rained around them, despite the presence of civilians nearby.
They pushed on towards the firing point and were engaged from the far side of a prominent bridge just as a group of women and children were crossing it.
Cpl McEwan recognised the danger to them and, in spite of his exposed position, held his fire until the women and children were clear.
Once they were safe, he again seized the initiative and, joined by two others, rushed across the bridge with bullets striking the walls around them.
Covering each other as they moved into secure firing positions, they suppressed the enemy.
Cpl McEwan’s citation states: “McEwan led from the front and by example, unafraid to expose himself to danger on numerous occasions throughout the tour.”
“He was particularly keen to take the fight to the enemy both by day and night and his offensive spirit was infectious. McEwan’s persistent and repeated gallantry, coupled with leadership of the finest order, deserves national recognition.”
Cpl McEwan said: “This was my fourth tour of Afghanistan, so I am pleased and really proud to have received an MiD. It didn’t feel like it was a big deal. On the day my multiple were the first to breach the IED line, but looking back on it now, of course, it was a big deal for all of us.”
The Mention in Dispatches is one of the oldest forms of recognition for gallantry within the UK Armed Forces. Since 1993 the Mention in Dispatches has been reserved for gallantry during active operations.