Ben Parkinson MBE an “inspiration” says Prince

Lance Bombardier Benjamin Parkinson, Royal Artillery receiving his Member of the British Empire (MBE) medal from the Prince of Wales . Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.
Lance Bombardier Benjamin Parkinson, Royal Artillery receiving his Member of the British Empire (MBE) medal from the Prince of Wales . Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

South Yorkshire’s Ben Parkinson, the soldier thought to have survived the worst ever battlefield injuries in Afghanistan, collected his MBE today.

And Lance Bombardier Parkinson afterwards said he was moved to be described as an “inspiration” by the Prince of Wales.

He lost both legs and suffered more than 40 injuries, including brain damage which affected his memory and speech, in a bomb attack in 2006.

Speaking moments after receiving the honour at Buckingham Palace, the paratrooper said: “I was surprised at how much Prince Charles knew about me.

“He said I was an inspiration. It made me feel so proud.”

When he took a turn in carrying the Olympic flame through his hometown of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, last July, the sight of the determined soldier on his prosthetic legs moved many to tears and was declared one of the most emotional scenes of the relay.

L/Bdr Parkinson was also one of a group of injured veterans who took part in a gruelling trek in Norway earlier this year.

The expedition, organised by the charity Pilgrim Bandits, retraced the footsteps of the Second World War heroes of Telemark to mark the 70th anniversary of the mission.

Along with other amputees and severely injured servicemen, L/Bdr Parkinson travelled 65 miles (105km) across the Hardangervidda in winds of up to 80mph (129kph) and temperatures of minus 30C (minus 22F).

Speaking of the trek, which he completed on a custom-made sled, the soldier joked: “Have you seen the adverts for beer with Jean-Claude Van Damme? It was colder than that - Damme cold.”

Also recognised for bravery today was Royal Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Craig Sweeney, who received the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue of a climber in Argyll in blizzard conditions, plummeting temperatures and pitch darkness.

He described the mission to uplift Gareth Bradley on 3,074ft (937m) Beinn Sgulaird near Oban as one of the most challenging rescues he has ever undertaken.

“We didn’t have any time to reflect on what we were doing at the time. I was completely in focus, just concentrating on the job in hand,” he said.

“I find this more nerve-wracking,” he joked.

The crew from HMS Gannet in Prestwick, Ayrshire, flew their Sea King helicopter to the aid of Mr Bradley, who had a broken ankle and might not have survived the elements were it not for their rescue mission on December 18 2011.

Lt Cmdr Sweeney, 38, joined HMS Gannet in December 2010 and lives close to the unit in Alloway with his wife and three children.

Speaking of being honoured, he said: “This is completely overwhelming.

“It’s very humbling, really. I didn’t expect to receive it and there were three other crew members involved, I hasten to add.

“Prince Charles said he was astounded by the bravery we’d shown and he said he was going to ask his eldest son if he knew about the rescue but said he hadn’t managed to yet.”

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Former world number one golfer Luke Donald said it was an “amazing experience” to be made an MBE for services to the sport.

“Everyone wants to go through that,” he said.

“It’s a great honour to be recognised. It means a lot, I always try my hardest and to be the best I can and it’s great to get that recognised.”

Donald, who said his next goal was to win one of the majors, said of meeting Charles: “He was surprised that I got the time off to practise and he said he thought it was amazing that us golfers practise and play in all sorts of tough conditions.

“He said he hoped the medal would inspire me as I compete in the future.”

Donald is from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, but lives in the US where he splits his time between Chicago and Florida with his wife Diane and their two young daughters.

He flew over yesterday and said it was “great” to be back in the UK where he will also compete at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in Surrey next week.

“Obviously a ceremony like this reminds you of your heritage and Britishness,” he said.

Sir Kenneth Grange, who as one of the UK’s leading designers is responsible for some of the most recognisable products including Britain’s first parking meterand the London taxi, described receiving his knighthood as “intimidating”.

“You think when you’re on your way here - and I’ve known about this since November - you think it’s marvellous and it’s delightful, but in the last few moments it was fearfully intimidating,” he said. “But it is uplifting.”

Of meeting Charles, the octogenarian said: “He asked me what I was working on and when I said I’m not retiring he said he was glad, so that’s good for us oldies.”

The 83-year-old, whose 50-year career has also seen him design Adshel bus shelters, the Kodak Instamatic camera and the rural post box, said he remained most proud of designing the Intercity 125 high speed train which remains in use today, “because it will see me out”.

Sir Kenneth, who lives in Okehampton, Devon, added: “I’m working on a chair for the elderly and on lighting design.

“Modern technology is making a profound difference to lighting, so in 20 years from now it will be transformed. It will be like the difference between picking up a telephone and a mobile phone. It is really getting some momentum but it will take time.”