MBE moves ‘inspirational’ Afghanistan soldier Ben Parkinson

Lance Bombardier Benjamin Parkinson after receiving his MBE from the Prince of Wales.
Lance Bombardier Benjamin Parkinson after receiving his MBE from the Prince of Wales.
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A SOLDIER from Doncaster thought to have survived the worst ever battlefield injuries in Afghanistan said he was moved to be described as an “inspiration” by the Prince of Wales as he made him an MBE today.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson lost both legs and suffered more than 40 injuries, including brain damage which affected his memory and speech, in a bomb attack in 2006.

Lance Bombardier Benjamin Parkinson receiving his MBE from the Prince f Wales.

Lance Bombardier Benjamin Parkinson receiving his MBE from the Prince f Wales.

Speaking moments after receiving the honour at Buckingham Palace, the paratrooper said: “I was surprised at how much Prince Charles knew about me.

“He said I was an inspiration. It made me feel so proud.”

When he took a turn in carrying the Olympic flame through Doncaster last July, the sight of the determined soldier on his prosthetic legs moved many to tears and was declared one of the most emotional scenes of the relay.

L/Bdr Parkinson was also one of a group of injured veterans who took part in a gruelling trek in Norway earlier this year.

The expedition, organised by the charity Pilgrim Bandits, retraced the footsteps of the Second World War heroes of Telemark to mark the 70th anniversary of the mission.

Along with other amputees and severely injured servicemen, L/Bdr Parkinson travelled 65 miles (105km) across the Hardangervidda in winds of up to 80mph (129kph) and temperatures of minus 30C (minus 22F).

Speaking of the trek, which he completed on a custom-made sled, the soldier joked: “Have you seen the adverts for beer with Jean-Claude Van Damme? It was colder than that - Damme cold.”

Also recognised for bravery today was Royal Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Craig Sweeney, who received the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue of a climber in Argyll in blizzard conditions, plummeting temperatures and pitch darkness.

He described the mission to uplift Gareth Bradley on 3,074ft (937m) Beinn Sgulaird near Oban as one of the most challenging rescues he has ever undertaken.

“We didn’t have any time to reflect on what we were doing at the time. I was completely in focus, just concentrating on the job in hand,” he said.

“I find this more nerve-wracking,” he joked.

The crew from HMS Gannet in Prestwick, Ayrshire, flew their Sea King helicopter to the aid of Mr Bradley, who had a broken ankle and might not have survived the elements were it not for their rescue mission on December 18 2011.

Lt Cmdr Sweeney, 38, joined HMS Gannet in December 2010 and lives close to the unit in Alloway with his wife and three children.

Speaking of being honoured, he said: “This is completely overwhelming.

“It’s very humbling, really. I didn’t expect to receive it and there were three other crew members involved, I hasten to add.

“Prince Charles said he was astounded by the bravery we’d shown and he said he was going to ask his eldest son if he knew about the rescue but said he hadn’t managed to yet.”