A soldier from Clayton-le-Moors has been hailed a lifesaver after preventing his battalion from an ambush in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
Drummer Thomas O’Brien, 21, was out on patrol when a local child with whom he had struck up a rapport told him in his own language that insurgents were lying in wait nearby.
Currently serving a six-month operational tour in Helmand, Thomas has found that speaking the local language, Pashtu, in southern Afghanistan can be a matter of life and death.
"Because of the time I'd spent chatting to that kid in his own language, he understood why we are here and wanted to help us," he said. "That may very well have saved us from a nasty surprise."
Thomas, of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, was brought up in Great Harwood and attended the town's St Wulstan's Catholic Primary School.
He lives with dad Stephen and has a sister Ashley, stepbrothers Karl and Max and a stepsister Vicky.
After joining the Army straight from school, he is now on his second tour having served in Basra in 2007.
He attained 98 per cent in a military language aptitude test and was enrolled on the all-arms basic language training course last year, learning to speak Pashtu in preparation for deploying to Helmand in March this year.
For the past two months he has been working as a linguist and intelligence analyst with Left Flank Company Group - an armoured infantry company working out of Warrior armoured fighting vehicles based in central Helmand's Green Zone.
Thomas said: "I really enjoy speaking Pashtu. It’s a difficult language to pick up, but it has proved its worth 10 times over out here.
"The massive benefit is that I can build up a much stronger rapport with the Afghan National Army soldiers, who we patrol with and, in particular, the local Afghan people. At least two-thirds of our guys out here have done the battalion-run ‘introduction to Pashtu’ course, so they can give greetings to locals in their own language and start that key interaction going."
As well as Pashtu, Thomas speaks French and Polish, as well as some Greek and Latin. He is due home in October.
Proud dad Stephen, of Oakenshaw Croft, said: "He came home for 10 days during June and didn’t mention anything about this but to hear about what he's achieved is very pleasant to say the least. We will have to throw a party for him when he gets home."
Thomas lives down the road from the home of Pte Jason Rawstron, the soldier killed in Helmand in September 2008.
Stephen added:¿"The fear every day is terrible. You see dead bodies coming home every day and it’s horrifying."