Their extraordinary acts of bravery are separated by 27 years. But as the first woman in the Royal Navy to be awarded the Military Cross proudly collected her medal at Buckingham Palace today a veteran who received the equivalent award for his actions in the Falklands put his medal up for sale.
Kate Nesbitt, a medical assistant, braved Taleban fire to tend a comrade shot in the neck during a gun battle in Afghanistan in March this year. The medic, of Whitleigh in Plymouth, Devon, dressed the wound and kept the soldier from losing blood while bullets and rockets flew overhead in Marjah district in Helmand Province.
After receiving her medal from the Prince of Wales, she said: “When it all happened we were in the middle of an operation but I wouldn’t in a million years have thought anyone would follow it up. It was the biggest shock when I got the news.
“It made it all seem real being here today. It has been so special. When I looked over and saw my mum and dad in the audience, it was the proudest day of my life.”
But it was a different story for a Falklands veteran whose heroism helped Britain to a decisive victory over Argentina.
Captain Ian Bailey was a 22-year-old corporal in the Parachute Regiment when he and Sergeant Ian McKay charged the enemy during the assault on Mount Longdon in 1982. McKay was killed and received a posthumous Victoria Cross, one of only two awarded during the conflict.
Corporal Bailey received the Military Medal - the now discontinued award equivalent to the Military Cross which was then still awarded to non-commissioned ranks.
The battle for Mount Longdon was the most costly of the war for Britain with 23 killed and 47 wounded.
Corporal Bailey was shot three times during the assault and only had the final bullet and the last of the shrapnel removed from his hip this year, having been unaware that it was still there. He was also shot in the neck and the bullet severed his identity tags that were found the following year during a de-mining operation.
Mr Bailey hopes to raise £60,000 for the sale of his Military Medal, shrapnel and tags and other mementoes for his army career at the Dix Noonan Webb auction house next Wednesday. Mr Bailey lost a great deal of blood as he waited for rescue and would have died had it not been for the very low temperatures on the island.
He later said: “Ian and I had a talk and decided the aim was to get across to the next cover, which was 35 meters away.
“There were some Argentine positions there but we didn’t know the exact location.
“He shouted out to the other corporals to give covering fire, three machine-guns altogether, then we - Sergeant McKay, myself and three private soldiers to the left of us - set off.
“As we were moving across the open ground, two of the privates were killed by rifle or machine-gun fire almost at once; the other private got across and into cover.
“We grenaded the first position and went past it without stopping, just firing into it, and that’s when I got shot from one of the other positions which was about ten feet away.
“I think it was a rifle. I got hit in the hip and went down. Sergeant McKay was still going on to the next position but there was no one else with him.
“The last I saw of him, he was just going on, running towards the remaining positions in that group. I was lying on my back and I listened to men calling each other.
“They were trying to find out what was happening but, when they called out to Sergeant McKay, there was no reply. I got shot again soon after that, by bullets in the neck and hand.”
The father of two stayed in the army until 2002, rising to the rank of captain, before going into the security industry. But he had to give up that career too because of the surgery to remove the bullet from his hip and has not received any compensation for lost earnings.
Ms Nesbitt is only the second woman in the Armed Forces to receive the MC, but said: “It doesn’t really make a difference. I was really overwhelmed that they trusted me to do the job and never doubted me at all, that’s what was important. I just did what I’m sure everyone else would have done for me.” (The Times)