Soldier wins VC for Iraq bravery
BBC News article
A soldier who saved 30 members of his unit in Iraq has been awarded the first Victoria Cross for more than 20 years. Private Johnson Beharry, 25, from London, twice saved the lives of colleagues while under enemy fire, but insisted he was just "doing his job".
He is still recovering from head injuries caused in one attack by a rocket-propelled grenade round. He was one of 140 soldiers honoured for their actions on tours in Iraq, Africa, Afghanistan, and the former Yugoslavia. 'Welcome boost'
Pte Beharry, who was born on Grenada, was at the head of a five-vehicle convoy when it came under attack in the town of al-Amarah on 1 May 2004.
He guided the column through a mile of enemy ground to drop off wounded comrades at great risk to his own safety, his citation said. Weeks later, his vehicle was hit by an rocket-propelled grenade round. Despite a head wound, he managed to reverse his Warrior to safety. "Maybe I was brave, I don't know. I think anyone else could do the same thing," he said. Pte Beharry, from 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, said he was "speechless" when told he was winning the VC. The award is the first since posthumous VCs given to Lt Col Herbert Jones and Sgt Ian John McKay during the Falklands conflict.
Commending all the soldiers honoured, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said the awards "recognise the outstanding achievements of these extraordinary men and women and their acts of great courage, bravery and determination".
BBC correspondent Paul Adams said the news was a much needed boost for the military "at a time when the armed forces have been battered by a succession of bad news stories". Commenting on Pte Beharry's VC, Chief of Staff General Sir Mike Jackson said: "We all know that the Victoria Cross is held in such high regard in our country and any holder of it is rightly given enormous respect for what he has done." Grenada's Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said: "Private Beharry's achievement will inspire the young men and women of Grenada, and should be used as a lesson which demonstrates that the most difficult challenges and trying times can be overcome." 'Doing the job' Pte Beharry is the first living recipient of the VC - the highest award in the British and Commonwealth military - since 1969.
He is one of only 14 recipients of the award still alive. His wife Lynthia, 23, a civilian worker for the Ministry of Defence, said she had been told her husband had only a 50-50 chance of survival after he had brain surgery for wounds he received in the second enemy action. "He deserves everything - he was very brave and courageous and I know he would do it all again if he had to," she said. The former construction worker, who came to the UK in 1999 and joined the army in 2000, has also served tours in Northern Ireland and in Kosovo. Royal Marines reservist Col Paul Anthony Jobbins, 56, of Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, won the George Medal for peacekeeping work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The retired police fingerprint officer was responsible for control of UN forces in the town of Bukavu, which fell to rebels in June 2004.
The unarmed officer held negotiations with warring factions amid a wave of violence which killed hundreds.