Royal Marine officer compared to Lawrence of Arabia

A young Royal Marine officer likened to Lawrence of Arabia for immersing himself in an Afghan police unit to live and fight alongside them has received one of the highest awards for gallantry.

Capt Owen Davis learnt fluent Pashto, grew a long beard and bonded with his Afghan militiamen comrades in Helmand over poetry and cricket.

He fought alongside them almost daily against local Taliban insurgents and was nearly killed when a grenade landed at his feet during the storming of one compound.

The 25-year-old from Swansea received a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, second only to a Victoria Cross, for his courage and “exemplary” leadership.

Capt Davis, a former professional rower, worked as a cultural advisor for nearly a year in Helmand.

He was sent to review a unit of Afghan police in the Upper Gereshk valley who were struggling against attacks from a determined insurgent commander.

After earning their trust, he felt safe enough to live alongside them with no other British troops to protect him, despite a rash of shootings where Afghan troops had turned their weapons on international allies.

Between dangerous patrols through the villages and fields of upper Helmand, they ate and slept together in the same room in a mud-walled compound.

In one incident, in June last year, he and his Afghan colleagues joined soldiers from the Grenadier Guards hunting a Taliban sniper.

Capt Davis and a policeman burst into a compound harbouring Taliban fighters and faced heavy fire, which immediately killed the Afghan. A grenade then landed at Capt Davis feet and he had to fling himself backwards over a wall to escape the blast.

Continuing the assault, he and the police killed several fighters at close range.
Living with the Afghans presents challenges even when people are not trying to kill you.  They have a largely primitive culture in many areas and the Taliban are a devious enemy.  His actions showed great courage.


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