In March 2005, Private Johnson Beharry became the first soldier to be awarded a Victoria Cross since the Falklands War of 1982.
Born in Grenada in 1979, Beharry moved to the UK 20 years later and joined the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. After training at Catterick, he became a driver of warrior armoured vehicles in C Company, 1st Battalion. Prior to the war in Iraq, he served for six months in Kosovo and three months in Northern Ireland.
Action in Iraq
In the early hours of 1 May 2004, Beharry's company was ordered to replenish an isolated coalition forces' outpost located in the centre of the city of Al Amarah. As the driver of a warrior armoured vehicle en route to the outpost, Beharry was re-tasked to rescue a foot patrol which was pinned down by heavy machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
However, when his vehicle was hit it damaged its periscope optic, forcing Beharry to open the hatch and drive to safety with his head fully exposed to small arms fire. He was recognised at the time for 'valour of the highest order'.
Having returned to duty a month later, Beharry's warrior was part of a quick reaction force tasked to attempt to cut off a mortar team that had attacked a coalition force base.
As the lead vehicle of the platoon, he moved rapidly through the dark city streets towards the suspected firing point. However, his vehicle was ambushed by the enemy from a series of rooftop positions.
A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at Beharry's vehicle and detonated on its frontal armour, just six inches from his head, resulting in a serious injury. Other rockets struck the turret and sides of the vehicle, incapacitating Beharry's commander and injuring several of his crew.
With the blood from his head injury obscuring his vision, Beharry managed to continue to control his vehicle, and forcefully reversed the warrior out of the ambush area. As a result of his wounds he fell unconscious.
Awarded the Victoria Cross
The full citation was published in Gazette issue 57587 on 18 March 2005:
'Private Beharry carried out two individual acts of great heroism by which he saved the lives of his comrades. Both were in direct face of the enemy, under intense fire, at great personal risk to himself (one leading to him sustaining very serious injuries).'
On the day he received his award, Beharry said: 'Maybe I was brave, I don't know. I think anyone else could do the same thing'.