She stands precisely 5ft tall in her everyday shoes and her smile is disarmingly sweet.
Kate Nesbitt doesn’t immediately fit the image of a fearless military hero, not off the battlefield at least. But there are probably few people a critically injured soldier would rather meet in the chaos of a desert gunfight than this 21-year old blonde in full flight.
And the sight of her sprinting through an Afghan war zone under heavy machine gun fire is almost certainly one that Lance Corporal John List will remember for the rest of a life he now owes to her astonishing display of courage
Kate, from Whitleigh, Plymouth, stepped into the history books as only the second woman to be awarded the MC, one of Britain’s highest gallantry awards, as well as becoming the only female MC Wren. Presenting her award, the Prince of Wales bowed to what he called her ‘extraordinary’ heroism.
Her citation read: ‘Under fire and under pressure her commitment and courage were inspirational and made the difference between life and death.’
Then, with a few modest words, she underlined the remarkable spirit of loyalty that bonds Britain’s servicemen and women on the front line. ‘I promised my friends and comrades I’d be their medic,’ she said. ‘I promised I’d be there if they ever needed me. They needed me that day – so when the call came, that’s just what I did.’
Kate, who works at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, was attached as a medic to 1st Battalion The Rifles on duty in the Marjah district of Helmand when her unit came under fire from a Taliban ambush.
‘I heard “man down, man down” on the radio and I knew I was needed,’ she said. ‘I got the location details and just sprinted.
‘When I first saw him, I didn’t think he was going to make it. A round had gone through his top lip, ruptured his jaw and come out of his neck. He was struggling to breathe and choking on his own blood.
‘Bullets were whizzing around my head and shoulders and hitting the ground all around us. The Taliban knew they’d got someone and they were targeting us.’
Lance Corporal List, who is also 21 and from Devon, was airlifted to hospital. Back in the battle zone, Kate still had his blood on her face in a photograph taken before she moved on to her next casualty.
Back in the UK and having made a good recovery, Lance Corporal List said of the incident: ‘I felt the impact go through my jaw, and the next thing I knew I was on my back. I thought that was it. Then Kate appeared from nowhere, reassuring me everything would be OK. Kate says to be called a hero is too much. I say it could never be enough.’
A warrior is someone who runs towards the sounds of battle, swords and axes prepared to face and slay the enemy. A medic (lovingly and respectfully called “Doc”) runs towards the battle, typically without a weapon, carrying their heavy aid bags… bullets flying and mortal injury always imminent… covering their fallen comrade with their own bodies to protect them… covered in their friends’ blood… doing everything in their power to save you and get you home alive. Many a Doc has sacrificed themselves in the line of duty.
All honor to our ‘Docs’ past, present and future. Wassail! ~Løki