Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mother thought hero soldier son worked in office

By Michael Smith

THE mother of a soldier decorated for bravery in Afghanistan had thought he was working in an office until she found out he had won an honour second only to the Victoria Cross.

This weekend it was announced that Lance Bombardier Gary Prout had been awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. He was one of more than 150 servicemen and women who were honoured.

Prout risked his life three times in quick succession when his patrol was caught in a vicious firefight with the Taliban.

Heather, his mother, said: “He kept it from me that he was actually on the front line ... He had already done one tour. I thought he worked in an office.”

Prout, 27, from Lisburn, Co Antrim, won his medal for what the citation described as “the most incredible courage”. It added: “It was a miracle he was not killed.”

A 30-man patrol had gone into an area known to be occupied by the Taliban south of Musa Qala in Helmand province on March 14 last year, with Prout taking up a position on top of a house.

The battle started with a blast as a soldier set off an improvised explosive device. Prout ran forward 150 yards to the scene where he found Alun Higgins, the platoon sergeant, with the wounded man, who he realised was his best friend, Lance Corporal Christopher Harkett, 22. He and Higgins began carrying Harkett to cover.

The Taliban opened up with heavy machinegun fire from 30 yards away. “The rounds were dancing around our feet,” said Prout, who was serving as an artillery observer. “The platoon commander described it as if there was a bubble round us. He had no idea how we could carry on without any of us getting hit.”

A Warrior armoured ambulance collected Harkett but Prout, whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the forces, knew his friend had little chance of survival.

Prout then ran back across open ground to the top of the house, where in a second incident of bravery he directed more than 200 rounds of artillery onto the Taliban while under fire.

A convoy of Warriors arrived to pull out the troops but Prout realised there was not enough room for all of them. He stayed with a small group, calling down smoke rounds to hide how few they were.

Even when they were evacuated, Prout’s day was not over. The group realised they had left weapons behind and he volunteered to go back, facing heavy rocket and machinegun fire.

It was only later that night that he had time to reflect on the loss of his friend.

“It was very emotional,” said Prout. “I didn’t sleep much that night but we were out on patrol next day, cracking on.”


  1. Ahhh what a sweet Son you are. Protecting your Mum. Congratulations on your medal. You are what is known as a hero, not like the kids these days that call a pop star a hero. You make me a proud Brit.
    Sarah x

  2. God bless you, Lance Bombardier Gary Prout! Thank you for your courage and dedication to duty and to your fellow soldiers. And thank YOU, Heather, for raising such and outstanding man. You must be so proud.

    Maggie Goff
    Bisbee, Arizona, USA

  3. Good on ya, Proutie!'ll have to come up with another "cover story" now.... ;)

  4. Well Done,,, Hero of all hero*s

  5. long live soldier!!

  6. well done mate, you never fail to impress.