Afghanistan evacuation troops to receive medals for heroism

Soldiers will receive the Operational Service Medal Afghanistan, featuring clasp reading 'Operation Pitting'

British citizens and dual citizens residing in Afghanistan board a military plane at Kabul airport, Afghanistan in August 2021. Reuters

Members of the UK armed forces who took part in the removal of more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan in August 2021 are set to receive a new medal recognising their efforts, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

Personnel will receive the existing Operational Service Medal Afghanistan, featuring a new clasp reading “Operation Pitting”, recognising their contribution to the evacuation of Afghan and assistance given to British nationals.

More than 15,000 people were flown out by personnel from across the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force during the effort.

About 600 soldiers were sent to Kabul airport to provide food, water and medical assistance to evacuees after the Taliban took control of the country.

Evacuees were flown out of Kabul by the Royal Air Force in what Defence Secretary Ben Wallace described as “the largest British evacuation since the Second World War”.

One flight set a new record for the highest number of people carried in an RAF C-17 aircraft, at 439.

“I’m delighted that Her Majesty The Queen has given permission for a special medal to be awarded to all those who deployed to Kabul, to honour their heroism in the face of extreme adversity,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Operation Pitting will go down as one of the great achievements of our UK armed services and their civilian counterparts in the postwar era. The whole country can be immensely proud of their tireless work to bring men, women and children to safety. They represent the very best of us.”

The prime minister also said on Twitter: "I'm delighted that Her Majesty The Queen has given permission for a special medal be awarded to all those who deployed to Kabul in August last year, honouring the heroism of those who carried out the biggest emergency evacuation for decades and rescuing 15,000 people."

Mr Wallace hailed the armed forces’ “true heroism, bravery and dedication”, and added: “As the security situation worsened by the hour, our servicemen and women stepped up and delivered the largest British evacuation since the Second World War. They will rightly receive medallic recognition for their efforts.

“Following approval from Her Majesty The Queen, they will now receive the medallic recognition their efforts deserve.”

Shadow defence secretary John Healey praised the decision, saying: “Troops involved in the Kabul airlift totally deserve a medal, and Labour have argued this since early September.

“The military medal is a fitting recognition of their bravery and professionalism, as well as expressing the pride and respect the nation feels in their service.”

Updated: January 19, 2022, 6:14 PM