Injured hero who saved Afghan soldiers during Taliban ambush to sell his Conspicuous Gallantry Cross at Dix Noonan Webb


27 November 2014

The extraordinary bravery of Colour Sergeant Alan Dennis in saving the lives of Afghan soldiers ambushed by The Taliban won him the
Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.
The fact that he carried out this enterprise while seriously injured and able to fight with only one arm adds to the esteem in which he is held by his comrades.

Now Dix Noonan Webb have the honour of offering his CGC –
the second highest British combat gallantry award with only the Victoria Cross above it – at auction on 11 December 2014, when it is expected to sell for £80,000 to £100,000.

Colour Sergeant Dennis of the 2
nd (Worcestershire & Sherwood Foresters) Battalion of the Mercians, won the CGC when he was Second in Command of an Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team working alongside the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) in Helmand Province in April 2009. The patrol was ambushed in a river valley by Taliban fighters and came under heavy fire from small arms and Rocket Propelled Grenades. Dennis found himself with three other British soldiers alongside half the ANA contingent they were mentoring and ordered them to break into a compound to establish a fire support position. Realising that the ANA troops were about to crumble under the intense enemy fire, he ran out twice and rescued Afghan soldiers, propelling them to a safe place.

The citation for his CGC says: “On the third run, he heard a ‘whoosh’ and turned as a Rocket Propelled Grenade exploded three metres in front of him. Although the fragmentation missed him, Dennis was hurled through the air by the blast and into a ditch. For a few seconds he was unconscious and when he came to his left arm hung uselessly by his side and he was in intense pain. Undeterred, Dennis fought on, moving back to the fire support position where he used a radio to send a contact report.”

As the fighting continued, Dennis fired his rifle with his one good arm and was the last to leave the position. He refused morphine so as not to dull his senses or create a burden for his team, and back at base turned down treatment until all the soldiers from the patrol were safely inside. The citation continues: “Dennis’s fighting spirit when severely wounded was outstanding and inspired others. His example and initiative brought the ANA into the battle which saved the patrol from defeat. He was calm and collected under intense fire, displaying cool courage.”

Dennis, originally from Melbourne in Derbyshire, said later as he recovered in hospital in Birmingham: “We were ambushed. In a situation like that, your adrenalin keeps you going. I remember hearing the bang of the Rocket Propelled Grenade as it landed about five feet in front of me and being thrown by the blast. I landed and heard a snap and then felt the pain and assumed that my arm had been broken.”

He was presented with his CGC by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in 2010. The Prince wrote to Dennis before the ceremony: “To say that I am full of admiration for your gallantry, courage and initiative is an understatement. You are an outstanding credit to the Mercian Regiment, of which I have the great privilege to be Colonel-in-Chief. You are also an immense credit to this country of ours which is, without doubt, more fortunate than it realises in having such dedicated people as yourself serving in our armed forces.”

It was the second occasion on which Dennis had been seriously wounded in Afghanistan. In 2007 he broke his leg when he was catapulted 30 feet after his Land-Rover set off a mine in Helmand. The blast killed his friend and comrade Thomas Wright who was sitting alongside him in the vehicle. Dennis battled his way back to fitness and returned to Afghanistan in 2009.

“The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross is second only to the Victoria Cross among British combat gallantry awards,” says director of DNW Pierce Noonan. “Just 58 have been awarded to our Armed Forces since the CGC was instituted in 1993 – a period during which our servicemen and women have been almost constantly involved in a series of major conflicts. That tells us how special the award is and how astonishingly brave and tenacious Colour Sergeant Dennis was when he won it.”

Dennis, now aged 40,
is married with two children. “I am obviously reluctant in many ways to sell my medals,” he says. “However, the amount of money that this sale could realise is potentially life changing for myself and my family. As a husband and father, I have to put their welfare first and this has made the decision to auction the medals easier than it might otherwise have been.”

Dennis has spent the last five years recovering from the physical and psychological scars brought about as a result of the wounds he received in Afghanistan. For him it has been a long road to recovery. He left the Army in September this year after 20 years service and is looking forward to a new start with his family away from the military.

The group of medals awarded to Dennis consists of: the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, the NATO Service Medal for Former Yugoslavia, the General Service Medal 1962-2007 with clasp Northern Ireland, the Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan, the Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, the Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Accumulated Campaign Service Medal and the Military Long Service & Good Conduct Medal.

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