A serving soldier put his promotion prospects in peril with a single punch, a court heard.

Ben Rees-Davies, aged 21 of I Croesnewydd, Beulah, pleaded guilty to assaulting Aled Wyn Rees in July 2013, when he appeared before Aberystwyth magistrates on Wednesday.

The court heard that Rees-Davies, who serves in the British Army, was in a Cardigan nightclub while home on leave on July 14.

He approached Mr Rees and asked him: “What’s happening between you and my girlfriend?”

Mr Rees replied there was nothing going on, adding he was glad the pair were back together.

The defendant said: “If you go anywhere near my girlfriend I’ll rip your head off.” He then punched Mr Rees as he turned away, causing a displaced fracture in his nose, which began to pour blood.

Vaughan Pritchard-Jones prosecuting told the court the complainant’s injury had to be reset under anaesthetic, and was still slightly bent and causing breathing problems.

When interviewed Rees-Davies told police he had had a lot to drink and couldn’t remember the evening’s events.

Alan Lewis, defending, said the incident was completely out of character for his client, who had an exemplary record in the army, where he had served for three years.

Mr Lewis said: “The event is something he is very remorseful about. He is very concerned about the consequences. The sentence he gets here today will affect his future career.”

He added that Rees-Davies, who had served in Afghanistan and India, and received a glowing reference from his platoon commander, would also be punished by the army for his behaviour.

Mr Lewis said: “Clearly my client is thought highly of, he is in line for promotion which will be slowed down by what happens here today. He has very much learned his lesson, it’s the first and the last time he will be in court.”

Magistrates ordered Rees-Davies to carry out 80 hours unpaid work and to pay £2,000 compensation to his victim. He will also have to pay £85 court costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

The presiding magistrate said: “You are going to spend quite a lot of time reflecting on this incident. It was unfortunate for the victim and unfortunate for you.

“We have given you this sentence because we are responsible for the people in the county we serve.”

He added that he hoped the incident would not badly affect the defendant’s army career.