George Medal presentation at Palace for Huddersfield soldier wounded while saving three mates in minefield
A HUDDERSFIELD soldier has received one of Britain's top bravery medals from the Queen.
And she clearly knew all about Cpl Paul Hartley's incredible bravery in an unmarked minefield in Afghanistan last September which saved his comrades' lives.
She presented the 26-year-old with the George Medal in an investiture at Buckingham Palace.
The medal is second only to the George Cross, which is also given for acts of bravery not in the face of enemy fire.
As a combat medic Paul went into a minefield and helped three of his comrades with limbs blown off - giving them life-saving first aid - before he, too, was injured in a blast and thought he was going to die.
Paul lives in Kirkburton and his brother, Mick, said: "The Queen knew exactly why Paul was there and told him the situation he faced must have been horrendous."
Paul went to the ceremony with his wife, Dawn, and parents Kathleen and Donovan.
The Examiner had exclusive access to the original citation for what Paul - then a lance corporal - did that day.
His platoon commander, 27-year-old Cpl Mark Wright, suffered terrible injuries and died as he was being evacuated. He received the George Cross posthumously.
Paul, who is in the Royal Army Medical Corps, was
attached to the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment who were defending the Kajaki Dam from regular Taliban attacks.
A patrol had gone to confront Taliban fighters on a nearby highway in the notoriously dangerous Helmand Province when disaster struck.
Paul was educated at Shelley High School. He now lives at Colchester Barracks with Dawn and their one-year-old son, Ewin.
He has another son, four-year-old JJ, from a previous relationship.
Paul has two older brothers, Christopher, 30, and Michael, 28.
Disaster struck on the morning of September 6 when a patrol made up mainly of Paras was running to tackle a group of insurgents.
A mine went off and they realised they had run into a minefield, probably put there by Soviet troops during their invasion in the early 1980s.
Paul rushed to the scene and discovered a corporal had lost his right leg.
He applied a combat tourniquet and told two of the man's colleagues to keep the stump raised.
He then gave the man an injection to stabilise his condition.
Other platoon members had plotted what they believed was a safe route through the minefield, but then another soldier triggered a second mine and lost his left leg.
Paul was anxious to help, but was ordered to stay where he was.
Cpl Wright took control and radioed for help.
A helicopter hovered, but the soldiers waved it away, fearing it could trigger further mines.
Paul said: "As it took off the downwash blew a mine into Cpl Wright.
"The impact hit his right arm and the explosion caused partial amputation to his right arm and shrapnel injuries to his chest."
Two other soldiers were also hit by the shrapnel.
Cpl Wright was bleeding badly and Paul knew he needed urgent treatment.
He threw his medical backpack in front of him. Once it landed and had not triggered a mine he jumped on to it.
He used this technique eight times, but as he neared Cpl Wright another soldier bent down to pick up a bottle of water and set off yet another landmine. Shrapnel hit Cpl Wright.
Paul was also hit by shrapnel, suffering injuries to his chest, arms and legs. Also, his mouth was open and the force of the blast went into his lungs.
"But for some reason I suddenly felt I wouldn't die that day and got across to Cpl Wright."
Cpl Wright had suffered severe injuries to his face, neck, arm and chest.
Paul also threw medical equipment - including morphine - to other wounded comrades and shouted instructions how to use it.
He covered Cpl Wright's gaping chest wound with a bandage and applied pressure.
He took off his own T-shirt and used that - but ended up with severe sunburn.
The soldiers kept being told a helicopter would be there within 15 minutes, but it was three hours before American Black Hawk helicopters arrived.
Paul was one of the final ones to be airlifted clear of the minefield. Sadly Cpl Wright died on the helicopter.
Paul's official citation states: "Lance Cpl Hartley entered the minefield in the full knowledge of the dangerous situation.
"This courage and complete disregard for his personal safety deserves official public recognition."