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'I don't feel a hero,' says VC-holder

News Telegraph article

The first soldier in more than 20 years to be awarded a Victoria Cross has been talking more about how he saved the lives of up to 30 of his comrades.

Private Johnson Beharry, 25, was given the most prestigious military medal for leading his team to safety after it was ambushed by insurgents in southern Iraq.

 
Pte Beharry
Pte Beharry saved the lives of his comrades

He guided a warrior armoured convoy through the flashpoint town of Al Amarah last May after his commander was believed to have been killed.

Despite suffering serious head injuries himself after his vehicle was hit and burst in to flames, he led the five vehicles out of the town.

A month later, the young soldier saved more lives in a second ferocious exchange and suffered serious head wounds in a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) assault that left him in a coma.

Pte Beharry said he was not scared at the time. It was only after he came out of hospital and returned to duty that he became "more wary".

"I was a bit more scared then," he added.

His main concern had been getting his vehicle safely out of the ambush, otherwise the team would have been a sitting duck.

"We would have been a target, and may not have got back," he said.

The armoured vehicle driver, from 1 Bn the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, said he does not feel a hero. "I just feel like myself," he told Sky News.

"May be I should, but I do not feel anything," he said.

Pte Beharry becomes the first living recipient of a Victoria Cross - the highest award bestowed on British and Commonwealth soldiers for gallantry in the face of the enemy - since 1965.

It is the first Victoria Cross awarded since Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Jones and Sergeant Ian John McKay received posthumous awards after the Falklands War.

Pte Beharry, who lives in London, joins only 13 other living holders of the prestigious medal.

Born on the Caribbean island of Grenada, the former construction worker came to the UK in August 1999. He enlisted in 2001, serving tours in Iraq, Kosovo and Northern Ireland.

Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, praised his valour.

"His citation is an extraordinary story of one man's courage, in the way he risked his life for his colleagues not once, but twice," he said.

Pte Beharry was among more than 140 servicemen and women to be honoured in the latest operational honours list for service in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Liberia, the Congo and Sierra Leone.

Other soldiers to receive honours include:

* Cpl Mark Byles, of 2 Bn Prince of Wales's Royal Regiment, receives a Military Cross after he crossed open ground under enemy fire in Iraq, capturing three positions and eight prisoners of war.

He was forced to take the initiative and take temporary command of a small team after their armoured vehicle came under fire in al-Amarah.

"To me, it's what I am trained to do. It's my job."

* Sgt Terry Bryan, of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, deployed in Basra, receives a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for bravery during a gunfight with Moqtada al-Sadr's militia in August.

He suffered leg and eye injuries, but is honoured for the encouragement and support he offered his patrol.