This Day in History: 2003-08-09

Iraq. 1st Queen’s Lancashire Regiment are on public order duties in Basra, and facing wide-spread disorder right across the city of 1.4 million people. In the suburb of Al Tannumah a large crowd gathers outside the Iraqi police station. Company Sergeant-Major Darren Leigh, with only some 30 soldiers and 3 vehicles, faces a crowd 300-strong. The rioters pelt them with a hail of bricks, and then surge forward in an attempt to overwhelm the police station. Sgt-Major Leigh’s small force holds them back, but comes under fire from gunmen behind the crowd. Despite the disparity in numbers, and sensing that his small party of Queen’s Lancashires are isolated, Sgt-Major Leigh seizes the initiative by rapidly advancing into the crowd to disperse them. A grenade wounds him in the legs. But despite his injuries he leads his 30 men in a baton charge against the mob, so that they are forced to withdraw, and eventually disperse as darkness falls. For his quick thinking, courage under fire, and determination despite his wounds, Sergeant Major Leigh was awarded the Military Cross