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Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Monday, 27 September 2010 12:00 UK
A story to inspire from Torquay Military Cross soldier
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

Paul Baines
Col Sgt Paul Baines risked his own life to save colleagues under attack

The mother of Torquay soldier Paul Baines, who has been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in Afghanistan, says his story is an inspiration to other young people.

Susan Baines also revealed that Paul, 35, kept his bravery secret for three months to save her from worrying.

"I think he only told me because he knew it was going to come out anyway," Susan told BBC Devon.

Paul was injured when he risked his own life to save colleagues in an ambush.

The incident happened in Helmand Province on 30 November 2009, when Colour Sergeant Baines was on patrol with The Coldstream Guards.

The former Audley Park School pupil was providing cover from a compound as colleagues made their way along a confined alley in a Taliban stronghold.

Paul Baines
Paul's mother Susan says joining the army was the making of him

The ground was littered with hidden bombs and Taliban ambush positions.

A bomb was detonated, critically injuring one of the soldiers. Paul abandoned his position to help his colleagues, but a second, bigger bomb went off, sending him 10ft into the air. The platoon sergeant was killed in the attack.

Despite wounds to his head, back and legs, and being under machine gun fire, Paul carried out life-saving treatment to the first casualty and then carried him across a heavily ploughed field to a waiting helicopter.

Paul then returned to the scene of battle to control the move back to camp.

He needed hospital treatment for his wounds, but he discharged himself and was back on patrol just a week later.

Paul's Military Cross citation reads: "This astonishing act of selfless gallantry in the face of horrifying tragedy was remarkable. Baines showed raw strength of character and deep reserves of courage on this gloomy day and these exemplary actions deserve significant public recognition."

Paul's mother Susan said that joining the army had been the making of her son: "He wasn't exactly studious at school and he didn't really have a career path ahead of him," she said.

It will be a day I will never forget.
Col Sgt Paul Baines

"Then he decided he wanted to join the army. It was entirely his decision and he trained himself - running and swimming - to get fit enough to get in. He was self-motivated.

"The army has been the making of him - it has made him the man he is today. It's been his family and has looked after him so well.

"It's inspirational to other young people who can't see any career ahead of them."

The 2009-10 tour of Afghanistan was Paul's second, and Susan revealed that he was mentioned in despatches for bravery on his first tour of the country. He also served in Iraq.

"Once he decides to do something, he does the very best he can. He's a very determined character. And he's a very brave boy.

"But he didn't tell me what he'd done or that he'd been in hospital until three months later, when he was home on leave. He didn't want to cause me extra worry, because it's horrible enough as it is when they're over there."

Susan says Paul's award was a source of pride for the entire family. His younger brother and sister, Matt and Stephanie, live in Torquay, and his father Peter lives in Portugal.

"Words fail to describe it really," said Susan. "I'm so proud of him.

"I keep going on at him about grandchildren, but he's married to the army. He said: 'Perhaps you'll be happy now I've got a Military Cross'!"

Paul, who was promoted to Colour Sergeant this summer, is currently on a tour of duty in Africa.

He said: "Even though the Military Cross has been awarded to me, I am honoured to accept this award for all in 2 Platoon and have no doubt in my mind that I would not have wanted to serve with anyone else than with Number 1 Company.

"On that day the members of 2 Platoon kept their heads together and made the casualty evacuation run smoothly with little direction needed.

"It will be a day I will never forget, but will always use as an example of when everything is at its most miserable, everybody steps up to the mark and the training really does work."

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