Brave duo killed as they saved injured colleague

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Two heroic soldiers were killed while rescuing an injured colleague in Afghanistan, an inquest was told.

Corporal Matthew Stenton, 23, of the Royal Dragoon Guards, and Lance Corporal Stephen Monkhouse, 28, of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, received posthumous Military Crosses for their bravery.

They were killed by small-arms fire after insurgents shot a fellow serviceman in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, on July 21 last year.

The two soldiers had gone to the aid of the Fijian-born Scots Guard who had been shot during a fierce gunfight with insurgents.

Cpl Stenton, from Wakefield, had manoeuvred a Viking armoured vehicle down a narrow alleyway during the fight to help remove the wounded soldier.

Meanwhile, L/Cpl Monkhouse was the gunner of a Coyote vehicle, which was providing support.

Both were killed in the ensuing gunfire while their colleague survived.

Sgt Darrell Winn, who was inside the Viking, told the inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, that he and a colleague had just lifted the injured soldier into the vehicle when Cpl Stenton was shot.

“When we pulled forward that’s when Matthew got shot,” he said. “He just slumped down.”

As soldiers from the Coyote went to his aid and transferred the injured Fijian to their vehicle, L/Cpl Monkhouse gave covering fire from a machine gun mounted on top.

Warrant Officer Second Class Denver Nunn, of the Scots Guards, told the hearing: “I was coming out of the back of the vehicle with Sgt Gibson and the gun fell silent.

“At that stage I went up and saw Stephen slumped over the gun and I immediately administered first aid.”

Colour Sergeant Anthony Gibson, of the Scots Guards, added: “I just remember a long bang and everything went quiet.”

The inquest, in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, heard the soldiers were providing protection to engineers searching for improvised explosive devices when they came under heavy gunfire. Both Cpl Stenton and L/Cpl Monkhouse were evacuated to the nearest patrol base and airlifted to hospital at Camp Bastion, where they were declared dead.

Post-mortem examinations revealed they had both suffered gun shot wounds to the face and neck and would have died almost instantly. Their body armour would not have saved them.

Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner David Ridley recorded a verdict of unlawful killing while on active service in Afghanistan.

He said: “Matthew and Stephen died as a result of the same incident – an horrendous firefight.

“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Matthew and Stephen were shot by insurgents.”

Cpl Stenton left his father and stepmother, Michael and Gillian, and his sister, Charlotte.

L/Cpl Monkhouse from Greenock, Inverclyde, was father to son Brandon. He also left parents, William and Linda, and younger siblings Allan, Ashleigh and Stacey.

Earlier this year the fathers of the two soldiers accepted the Military Cross medals on behalf of their sons in private ceremonies at Buckingham Palace.

Cpl Stenton’s father said: “It’s a real honour to receive this medal from Her Majesty on behalf of Matthew.

“But this isn’t just for him, it’s for all the lads in the Royal Dragoon Guards. They’re all heroes.”

Mr Monkhouse said: “We have had the ceremony filmed so that we can show it Brandon when he’s older. The medal belongs to Brandon now.