18 March 2005

Private Johnson Beharry,1st Battalion the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment

Well done!


Soldier Wins VC for Iraq Bravery

A British soldier serving in Iraq who saved 30 members of his unit from an ambush 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.

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 tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia and Africa.

'Welcome boost'

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said: "These honours and 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, whether it be British soldiers on trial for abuses or the failure of the MOD to look after its young recruits properly, this news is very welcome," he said.

It had prompted Chief of General Staff Sir Mike Jackson to say it was the proudest moment in his long military career, our correspondent added.

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 of the medals to be awarded since a posthumous VC given to Lt Col Herbert Jones and Sgt Ian John McKay during the Falklands conflict.

'Doing the job'

It makes him the first living recipient of the VC - the highest award in the British and Commonwealth military - since 1969.

"When I was told yesterday I thought it was great to have received the award. I was speechless," said Mr Beharry, who was born on the Caribbean island of Grenada but comes from London.

The soldier 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.

Mr Beharry is one of only 14 recipients of the award still alive.

"At the time I was just doing the job, I didn't have time for other thoughts," he said of his actions.

"I want to return to service, but I don't know when that will be and I would go back to Iraq if I had to."

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 was injured.

"This makes me even more proud to be his wife," she said.

"He deserves everything - he was very brave and courageous and I know he would do it all again if he had to."

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.

Mr Beharry has had brain surgery for wounds he received in the second enemy action.

Warring factions

Sir Mike Jackson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "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.

"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."

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.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/18 11:39:44 GMT



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