Bransholme soldier honoured for clearing Taliban bombs
A SOLDIER who repeatedly cleared safe lanes through an area riddled with dozens of Taliban bombs while under heavy fire has received a military honour.
Private Liam Howman, 22, of Bransholme, has been awarded a Mention in Despatches for his bravery and professionalism, which saved countless lives in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
The citation for his award reads: "Howman's impact was extraordinary; time and time again he was the lead man in perilous situations, including whilst under fire.
"At his insistence he painstakingly confirmed anything suspicious, resulting in positive finds on multiple occasions.
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"His actions saved lives. His dedication to his comrades was truly exceptional."
In one incident, Private Howman – using a metal detector – had sole responsibility for finding a safe route through a mine field, known as an IED (improvised explosive device) belt.
As his patrol moved into the cover of a compound to replace another patrol, the past pupil of Winifred Holtby School insisted on re-checking the area for his colleagues.
A source from his unit, 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (1 Yorks), said: "His intuition paid off – the insurgents had managed to hide an IED within the friendly forces camp that had, as yet, not been detonated, but would almost certainly have caused casualties."
Minutes later, both patrols came under machine-gun and grenade attack.
"Ignoring the incoming fire that rained around him while he worked, Liam cleared a canal crossing point and a nearby compound of further IEDs for the men to occupy as cover," said the source. "He remained exposed to enemy fire throughout."
Private Howman quickly became known as one of the best "point" men – the soldier who leads a patrol – in B Company.
He was stationed at Patrol Base Rahim in the north of Nahr-e Saraj district, where the Mail visited in March.
Later in the six-month tour, Private Howman's detection skills were again called on when he was asked to help evacuate a seriously-injured Taliban fighter from a canal.
"With bullets flying around him, he made sure the area was cleared before his colleague's put themselves in even greater danger going to the aid of the insurgent," said the source.
1 Yorks, which recruits heavily from East Yorkshire, lost two soldiers during the tour and a member of its Territorial Army unit, 4 Yorks, who was attacked to the battalion.
One of the fallen soldiers, Private John King, 19, of Darlington, was based at Patrol Rahim with Private Howman.
He was killed after stepping on a Taliban bomb, moments after his patrol was caught in a fierce ambush.
The Mention in Despatches is one of the oldest forms of recognition for gallantry within the UK Armed Forces.
Since 1993, it has been reserved for gallantry during active operations.
Private Howman's recognition was announced yesterday with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list which includes 106 personnel.
The awards are for actions between September last year and March during Operation Herrick 15.