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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland


Honour for NI TA Soldier

03 April 2013

A Territorial Army soldier who took command and fought off Afghan insurgents after his two senior officers were shot has been awarded a Mention in Despatches.

Lance Corporal Chris Morton, 42, of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, was attached to 3rd Battalion The Rifles as part of a Police Advisory Team in Nad-e-Ali when his patrol’s lead vehicle was hit by an IED in August 2012.

Chris, a window fitter in his civilian life, moved his vehicle to provide cover before checking for casualties. He helped the stricken crew, including the gunner who had suffered a leg injury, but the platoon commander was then hit by what would prove a fatal gunshot.

Chris again moved his vehicle to provide further cover and took over treatment of the commander, but his second-in-command was then shot. With both officers incapacitated, Christopher took control and ordered his driver and gunner to continue medical treatment on the two men. He then put the injured gunner in a position where he could fire on the insurgents.

Chris said: “We went out on patrol with 12 soldiers but, with three men injured, and people treating those that were injured, as well as having someone on the radio; it left me effectively with five. This was the worst situation we could have found ourselves in. I was wondering where this was going to end, could this day get any worse?”

But by assuming the role of commander Chris rallied his men until reinforcements arrived. His citation reads: “Morton’s exemplary actions on this day successfully regained control of a potentially catastrophic situation. Under fire and leaderless, Morton’s gallantry saved the day.”

But Chris said: “The command was easy because of the reaction of the blokes; they were all really, really good.”

Chris has served in the TA since 2008 and this was his second tour in Afghanistan. He said: “I had always wanted to join the Army but I had a family and steady job so I gave up on the idea until a friend served with the TA in Iraq and that got me interested in the reserves.

“It’s hard for people to understand what a TA soldier needs to go through to be deployed. But after a couple of months of pre-deployment training with your Regular unit I think it’s hard to tell the difference between TA and Regular soldier.”

Chris, from Belfast, is one of 24 soldiers awarded a Mention in Despatches on the list and, when he heard about his honour, he didn’t quite believe it: “I thought it was a wind up because it was St Patrick’s Day the following day! It’s great to be recognised but, if I could give this award to everyone who was there on that day, I would.”

The Mention in Despatches is one of the oldest forms of recognition for gallantry within the UK Armed Forces. Since 1993 the Mention in Despatches has been reserved for gallantry during active operations.

The announcement was made today with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list which includes 119 personnel. The awards are for actions roughly during the period April to September 2012 during Operation HERRICK 16.