Steph Stephens SBS - Conspicuous Gallantry Cross
Unit/ Formation: SBS
Location: Haji Wakil village, Bahram Chah
Period/ Conflict: War in Afghanistan (2001-2021)
Date/s: 1st July 2010
2010. Thursday 1st July. Royal Marine Corporal Seth Stephens SBS aged 42, was Killed in Afghanistan.
Stephens was posthumously awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his bravery after rescuing comrades from the Special Boat Service who were pinned down by heavy fire.
In his citation for the award, that is second only to the Victoria Cross, the court heard that the former Royal Marine had "almost certainly saved the lives of his comrades" after exposing himself to enemy fire during a substantial gun battle.
That single act of selfless bravery almost certainly saved the lives of his comrades
An inquest heard that Cpl Stephens was part of a large British and Afghan special forces raid on a Taliban headquarters in Helmand province. In the during the early hours of July 1st, 2010 Chinooks carrying the teams landed near Haji Wakil village in the Bahram Chah area at 2am and quickly came under determined enemy resistance. After more than five hours of heavy fighting the SBS force found "progress extremely difficult" as they fought their way through an orchard coming under fire from all sides.
On his own initiative Cpl Stephens used a ladder to climb a 9ft compound wall and began to fire down onto enemy positions that were attacking the men stranded in the orchard. "In adopting this position, he would have been acutely aware of his own vulnerability," an inquest learnt. An SBS Marine who followed him into the compound was shot and wounded by an insurgent firing over a 7ft wall close to Cpl Stephens. The fellow Marine tried to warn him of the threat as the gunman had a clear line of sight onto Cpl Stephens. Between 15 and 30 seconds later Cpl Stephens was shot in the back of the head in the exposed area between his helmet and body armour.
It is not known how many enemy were killed although Lt Col Freddie Kemp, from the MoD's inquest unit, later said it was a "significant firefight but we came out on top". Sheriff Payne, the coroner, said: "Cpl Stephens made a conscious decision to move to provide more effective covering fire. "He was in a very exposed position under accurate fire at increased risk to himself. "That single act of selfless bravery almost certainly saved the lives of his comrades."
The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross
The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC) is a second level military decoration of the British Armed Forces. Created in 1993 and first awarded in 1995, it was instituted after a review of the British honours system to remove distinctions of rank in the awarding of gallantry decorations. The Victoria Cross is the only higher combat gallantry award presented by the United Kingdom.
The CGC replaced both the Distinguished Conduct Medal (Army) and the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Naval and Air) as second level awards to other ranks and ratings. The CGC also replaced the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), in its role as an award to officers for gallantry. The DSO was retained as an award for outstanding leadership. The CGC now serves as the second level award for gallantry for all ranks across the whole armed forces. It was designed and sculpted by Michael Rizzello, OBE (1926-2004) for the Royal Mint. [Wikipedia]