A CHEPSTOW-BASED soldier has been honoured with the British Army’s first promotion in the field since 1953.

Rifleman Gigar Das, from 1st Battalion The Rifles (1 RIFLES), was honoured in the field for his service to Mali while serving as part of the EU Training Team.

The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Peter Wall, accompanied the head of the French Army, General Bertrand Ract-Madoux, to witness soldiers from 1 RIFLES delivering infantry training to their Malian counterparts.

Both generals were hugely impressed with Rifleman Das, based at Beachley Barracks, as they observed him conducting a lesson in marksmanship principles. Astounded to see the soldier was a rifleman, the Chief of the General Staff decided to promote him there and then, after briefly consulting with Rifleman Das’s company commander.

In front of the entire EU training team, Rifleman Das, who has served in the Army for eight years and deployed on three tours of Afghanistan and one of Iraq, was presented with his lance corporal’s stripe by the head of the French Army. On receiving his promotion, the Londoner said: “It is extremely unexpected and I couldn’t be more proud of this honour.”

The newly-promoted lance corporal’s company commander, Major Sam Cates, said: “I am extremely proud of Lance Corporal Das, this is absolutely no more than he deserves. He has been one of the most outstanding riflemen I have ever had the privilege to command. He sacrificed the opportunity to attend the last 1 RIFLES (junior non-commissioned officer) cadre to take his place on this operational deployment, and to be recognised in this unique way is some reward for his dedication.”

Lance Corporal Das’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Karl Hickman, added: “I was delighted to learn of Lance Corporal Das’s promotion in the field, which he thoroughly deserved for his sterling service in Mali and for his significant operational experience in Iraq, including his notable contribution to the campaign in Afghanistan.

“That the Chief of the General Staff should recognise Lance Corporal Das’s exceptional quality in the field shows that, as a thinking rifleman, he follows in the finest traditions of the Rifles, a regiment whose motto is ‘Swift and Bold’”.