LCPL Joshua Leakey: One of the Good Guys

For all have sinned…dredging up an errant tweet or email some poor slob typed at age 14 and then canceling them over it as an adult seems the very pinnacle of hypocrisy.

We live in a curiously black and white world. The Information Age has given us unprecedented insight into people’s private lives. If something is ever published on the Internet it is there forever. This allows those who don’t actually accomplish a great deal to sit back in a position of comfort and pick apart the actions of those who do.

This thing is the devil. I’m old, but I see little redeeming about the Information Age thus far.

Cancel culture is the woke term. Like texting, sexting, dope, Gucci, sick, lit, or the term woke itself, these are words that meant something totally different a generation ago. This deep into the Information Age all it takes is a single errant comment online to disqualify a person from a position of prestige or responsibility. This is based on the flawed assumption that folks are all either innately good or innately bad.

There is a website devoted to Mother Theresa’s moral failings. If you’re looking for a sinless role model among us mere mortals you should prepare yourself for disappointment.

Reality is rarely that clear cut. Not all nuns are angels, and not all Nazis were bloodthirsty psychopaths. We are all of us broken. It is simply that some strive for the light, while others embrace the darkness. However, there does yet remain some weird intangible that attracts certain personalities to certain camps. That ethereal stuff tends to drive some of the most extraordinary behavior.

ISIS throws people off of tall buildings if they are suspected of being gay. I think folks who are whining so about perceived injustice in the United States need to appreciate what life is like in other places.

In some rare quarters you can indeed find a few moral absolutes. I think we can all agree that ISIS, al Qaeda, and the Taliban are reliably bad people. Their sick oppressive ideology attracts aberrant abusive personalities and then cultivates the worst in them. In the West, an errant online comment can be an unforgivable sin. Meanwhile in Afghanistan people have been executed for listening to music. If anybody cares about my opinion, I think we could use a little perspective over on this side of the pond.

The Global War on Terror brought free peoples together against a common enemy. These are Bundeswehr troops from Germany serving in Afghanistan.

Regardless, in the aftermath of 9-11 the free countries of the world banded together to battle the forces of darkness. This was an old school righteous fight. The egregious behavior of our radical Islamist enemies served as the catalyst to unite free peoples in a common cause against tyranny, oppression, and rank terrorism. That single shared mission brought out the very best in some. One of the finest examples extant was that of a young British paratrooper named Joshua Leakey.

Origin Story

Joshua Leakey is both a hero and a patriot.

Joshua Leakey was born in 1988 in England. His father is a retired RAF officer, while his mom is an Occupational Therapist. He has one younger brother. Leakey attended school in Horsham, West Sussex, before starting a military history program at the University of Kent. Dissatisfied with his studies, Leakey dropped out of school to join the British Army.

With the benefit of hindsight, this was a pretty ridiculous thing to do. It’s the rare retired paratrooper who can walk upright in comfort. However, it sure was a rush back in the day.

There is a certain brotherhood among those of us soldiers stupid enough to jump out of perfectly good airplanes. We are typically somewhat full of ourselves and more than a wee bit arrogant. Joshua Leakey was cut from similar stuff. He ended up with the 1st Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment.

The CH47D helicopter has been one of the most effective weapon systems of the modern age. Fast, capable, and cool, the Chinook is a rugged and versatile combat aircraft. I loved the machine.

Joshua Leakey did three combat tours with the Paras in Afghanistan and was promoted to Lance Corporal. In August of 2013, Leakey was part of a joint multinational operation in Helmand Province. Fighting alongside US Marines as well as Afghan soldiers, Leakey and his mates were moving into a village to search for illegal weapons. Leakey’s team inserted via CH47 Chinook helicopters and immediately found themselves deep in the suck.

The Fight

Soon after their insertion via helicopter, LCPL Leakey’s Paras were fighting for their lives.

Leakey’s element was tasked to provide fire support for the troops assaulting into the village. As such, they set up on the reverse slope of a nearby hill protected from the bulk of the enemy fire. Despite their position of relative safety, they soon found themselves subject to withering automatic weapons and RPG fire.

American Marine Captain Brandon Bocian, himself obviously quite the stud in his own right, owes his life to the selfless actions of this young British paratrooper he likely barely knew.

The command group was pinned down on the exposed front slope of the hill by around 20 heavily-armed Taliban fighters. American Marine Captain Brandon Bocian was subsequently hit and badly wounded. The Taliban insurgents were so close and so ferocious as to negate the effectiveness of the two friendly machineguns as well as the organic mortar section that was collocated with the command group.

Combat sweeps away the fluff to expose the true measure of a man.

Despite being the most junior NCO present, LCPL Leakey rightly assessed the situation as dire and took action. He ran some 100 meters down the hill under heavy enemy fire to get to the command group and render aid to the downed US Marine officer. LCPL Leakey then took charge of the chaotic situation and initiated casualty evacuation procedures.

LCPL Leakey did what it took to turn the tide of the battle.

All the while Taliban forces were suppressing the two automatic weapons in overwatch positions at the top of the hill. LCPL Leakey then ran back up the hill across rugged terrain and under heavy fire to retrieve one of the guns and get it back in action. In the process, the machinegun he was carrying was itself struck by enemy fire though not disabled. LCPL Leakey got the gun working and began pouring fire back onto the attacking insurgents.

Without regard for his own safety, LCPL Leakey braved withering enemy fire time and again.

While this helped it still did not tip the balance of the engagement in the favor of friendly forces. As such LCPL ran the gauntlet a third time, this time carrying more than 60 pounds’ worth of ammunition and equipment. He retrieved a second machinegun from the pinned down command group and sprinted to a more advantageous position with it, siting it against the enemy before turning its operation over to a subordinate.

In modern war overkill is not a real thing. Close Air Support platforms like these A10 Warthogs typically represent an irresistible force on the battlefield.

With two belt-fed MGs finally working on the enemy, LCPL Leakey returned to the downed Marine and coordinated his evacuation under fire. Along the way, friendly forces killed eleven insurgents and wounded another four. The entire battle lasted some 45 interminable minutes. The fighting did not stop until friendly close air support rolled hot to teach the Taliban a stark lesson in the salient aspects of tactical overmatch.

The Guns

The modernized SA80A3 is a mature and effective combat rifle.

British forces in action in Southwest Asia most frequently carried the SA80 bullpup assault rifle. The SA80 was a thoroughly inspired but badly flawed design when introduced in 1985. Since then the SA80 has undergone several product improvements. In 2000 HK redesigned the weapon into the SA80A2, rectifying many to most of the rifle’s documented deficits. The subsequent SA80A3 first saw issue in 2016 and focused primarily on making the weapon more modular and adaptable. Today the SA80A3 enjoys reliability rates comparable to other modern assault rifles.

The FN MAG gun has become the most popular belt-fed machine-gun in the Free World. FN Herstal photograph.

I could not find a specific reference to the machineguns LCPL Leakey humped up and down that godforsaken hill in Afghanistan. However, balance of probability these were L7A2 GPMGs (General Purpose Machineguns). The British soldiers I have known all referred to the L7 guns as “Gimpy’s.”

The FN MAG gun in all its many guises is a familiar weapon in Western arsenals.

The L7A2 is an evolved version of the original Belgian MAG (Miltrailleuse d’Appui General) gun. Designed in the early 1950s by Ernest Vervier, the MAG gun has subsequently seen service with more than 80 nations and has been license-produced in ten countries to include Argentina, Canada, Egypt, India, Singapore, Turkey, the US, and the UK. The Chinese naturally make an unlicensed copy of the gun they call the CS/LM1. In US service the MAG gun is designated the M240.

The lightweight American M240L is the most modern version of the classic MAG gun.

The US military first adopted the M240 in 1977 as a coaxial machinegun for main battle tanks. With the well-documented shortcomings of the M60 being made ever more painfully manifest as the guns began to age, some legit rocket scientist realized that we had perfectly good M240’s in storage. Uncle Sam bought the buttstocks and fire controls to convert those early coax guns into ground weapons and fell in love with them. The M240B weighed 28 pounds while the lightened M240G tipped the scales at 24.2 pounds. The more recent M240L dropped the weight to 22.3 pounds by using titanium in certain critical components along with a short barrel, polymer fire control unit, and collapsible stock.

The Rest of the Story

LCPL Joshua Leakey is a proper warrior.

Though LCPL Leakey likely did not know CPT Bocian well, he risked his life multiple times to save the man. LCPL Leakey fully appreciated the desperate nature of the engagement. He selflessly took action to get the injured American to safety and ultimately defeat the Taliban fighters who were so intent upon killing them all. His courageous actions under fire are a study in combat leadership and reflect that weird secret sauce that separates heroes from normal folk on the modern battlefield.

LCPL Leakey received his nation’s highest award for valor from Queen Elizabeth herself. She was quoted as having said, “I don’t get to give out very many of these.”

In February 2015, LCPL Joshua Leakey received the Victoria Cross directly from the hand of Queen Elizabeth II. The Victoria Cross is Great Britain’s highest award for bravery in combat. Like most true heroes, LCPL Leakey was humbled by the honor. He had this to say to the BBC, “In that particular incident I was in the best position to do that. If it had been any of my mates they would be in this position now…I don’t look at it about being about me in particular, I look at this as representing everyone from my unit, from my battalion, who was involved in the campaign in Afghanistan.”

SGT Nigel Gray Leakey, LCPL Joshua Leakey’s 2d cousin, was quite the WW2 hero himself.

LCPL Leakey comes by it honestly. His second cousin, Sergeant Nigel Gray Leakey, earned the Victoria Cross himself in 1941. The elder SGT Leakey was awarded the decoration posthumously for valor while fighting the Italians in North Africa. LCPL Leakey is only the third British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for combat action in Afghanistan. He is the only one of the three who lived to tell the tale.

The Victoria Cross is even today minted from bronze harvested from captured guns taken by British forces during the Crimean War.

The Victoria Cross was introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856 to recognize acts of exceptional valor during the Crimean war. Since then it has been awarded 1,356 times. LCPL Leakey is only the fifteenth soldier so recognized since the end of WW2. Each physical medal is formed from the bronze of Russian guns captured at the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War. In military circles, it’s quite the big deal.

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About the author: Will Dabbs A native of the Mississippi Delta, Will is a mechanical engineer who flew UH1H, OH58A/C, CH47D, and AH1S aircraft as an Army Aviator. He has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning and summited Mount McKinley, Alaska, six times…always at the controls of an Army helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains. Major Dabbs eventually resigned his commission in favor of medical school where he delivered 60 babies and occasionally wrung human blood out of his socks. Will works in his own urgent care clinic, shares a business build-ing precision rifles and sound suppressors, and has written for the gun press since 1989. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three awesome adult children, and teaches Sunday School. Turn-ons include vintage German machineguns, flying his sexy-cool RV6A airplane, Count Chocula cereal, and the movie “Aliens.”

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Frank January 18, 2022, 1:43 pm

    Thanks, Doc. Once more you’ve highlighted an individual with the intestinal fortitude to stand tall in the face of the enemy. Such stories should be required reading for all school children instead of the “woke” marxist b s that passes for education these days.

    Throughout history, it’s been said that 10% of the soldiers do 90% of the fighting. I would bet by now it’s more like 5% doing 95%. Let us thank God for that small percentage of men who stand in the gap, and also pray for the courage to do likewise when we ourselves are confronted with evil.

  • Lars Skinner January 18, 2022, 1:21 pm

    Doc – Always a great read (and equally engaging photos)! I would love for you to collect all of your posts/articles into a book – have you considered that? I would buy at least 3 copies…

  • Shanz January 17, 2022, 9:55 pm

    Thank you to all of you who served in some foreign land fighting bad guys. Fighting for freedom? Are we free people? Are you fighting the evil forces who would threaten that freedom? No disrespect just a question I find my self asking more and more.

  • Clint W. January 17, 2022, 3:56 pm

    Even though this is a recent event, can free nations find worthy warriors like this when they are most needed? Heroes from all wars the US, the Brits, the Aussies, all our allies, participated in have come forward when the situation demanded it, all saying it was something they did because it needed to be done. Until recently, the country raised young citizens to love their country, be proud of it, defend it. Now, if a school even says the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the school day, it is an exception. Most rural areas and small towns still have the Patriotic outlook, but are quickly being overtaken by outside forces. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor, we were attacked on 9/11 and young Americans stepped forward. The WWII vets and those that supported them in factory and farm, are called the Greatest Generation. The Vets of anything since, The Forgotten War, The Congo under the UN direction, The Vietnam War where Vets were labelled baby killers, Grenada, every little podunk country the free world sent troops to maintain order and be put in harms way, some not coming back, and now Afghanistan where Vets have been abandoned by media and politician. All is filed away while their stories and memories are just held amongst them, and those who have seen the importance to read the books that are out there and know the history.

  • Kent January 17, 2022, 2:32 pm

    Another great read, Doc! What a wordsmith you are. I was puzzled by your reporting about the well-documented shortcomings of the M60 machinegun. I am hoping you could point them out at some future date. All I could find was the constant necessity to change out the barrel in combat. I remember double-timing back from the range at Camp Pendleton in 1967 with one on my shoulder and my ankles starting to turn as we reached the buses. That was shortcoming enough for me…Never had much to do with them after that, as I went into tanks. My favorite infantry weapon was the M79 grenade launcher. I still lust to own one….

  • jerry January 17, 2022, 12:54 pm

    I love these stories, especially from WWII in Europe. I can’t get enough of them. God bless LCPL Leakey.

  • Alan January 17, 2022, 11:42 am

    The Lance Corporal was So very deserving of the the Victoria Cross, as so many of ours deserved the Medal of Honor for their actions. I’m just so glad it wasn’t awarded posthumously to him.

  • kb31416 January 17, 2022, 11:32 am

    Dr. Dabbs,
    Great work, as always.
    You should collect your writings into an anthology at some time. It would be great to have them all in one place, and would be perfect for AM coffee time reading.

  • dave danger January 17, 2022, 11:27 am

    Great job featuring this hero, Will. Of course I had to hear it from you, 7 years after the VC was earned.
    Likely the commies in our country who hide behind the 1st amendment avoided this story like the plague when it occurred.

  • ebd10 January 17, 2022, 11:00 am

    People keep insisting that we jumped out of perfectly good airplanes. The fact is, we jumped out of AIR FORCE airplanes; built by the lowest bidder, maintained by teenagers that are enslaved by the intensity of rushing hormones, and piloted by those of questionable sobriety. And, since 80% of all air-traffic accident happen upon takeoff or landing, jumping out eliminates half of that problem. 😉

  • Timm Heisey January 17, 2022, 10:17 am

    Dabbs, This write ups on people are great. Thanks!

  • Derrell January 17, 2022, 9:47 am

    Thanks Dr Dabbs!
    Your writing is a Blessing that I have been enjoying for quite some time!

  • Jerry S January 17, 2022, 9:31 am

    While I admit to having difficulty with some of the jargon of the new military, I thoroughly enjoy your articles. The soldier of today is eon’s ahead of what we had in the ’60’s. The metal of the GI still there though.

  • Mike Thomas January 17, 2022, 8:41 am

    You are, Doctor Dabbs, my version of a prolific writer. While your patients will judge you differently perhaps, we know you are a true patriot in every thing you say and do. Great article as usual, thankfully you are in the pages of a variety of media for all to enjoy and learn from.
    Keep it up as long as you can afford to!

  • Texas Twostep January 17, 2022, 8:31 am

    Once again, outstanding article. Thank you for taking the time to open our eyes to aspects of history we may not otherwise have known.

  • Gregory J Guilbeau January 17, 2022, 8:09 am

    Very Well Done Mr. Dabbs,

    An exceptional article that shows the proper respect and humility for the brave and courageous gentleman and warrior LCPL Leakey who righteously deserves the honor.

  • Steve R January 17, 2022, 6:36 am

    I always look forward to your posts. You are a true Renaissance Man!

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