Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry, of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wale’s Royal Regiment, is a British Army soldier who, on 18th March 2005, was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour in the British and Commonwealth armed forces. He is the first living recipient of the award in over 30 years, for twice saving members of his unit from ambushes on 1st May and again on 11th June 2004 at Al-Amarah, Iraq.
On 1st May 2004, Johnson Beharry was driving a Warrior tracked armoured vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Due to damage to his periscope optics, Johnson Beharry was forced to open his hatch to steer his vehicle, exposing his face and head to withering small arms fire. He drove the crippled Warrior through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded comrades from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for “valour of the highest order”.
While back on duty on 11 June 2004, Johnson Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior of his platoon through Al Amarah when his vehicle was ambushed. A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle six inches from his head, and he received serious shrapnel injuries to his face and brain. Other rockets then hit the vehicle, incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his life-threatening injuries, Johnson Beharry retained control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He required brain surgery for his head injuries, and he was still recovering in March 2005 when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The full citation was published in a supplement to the London Gazette of 18 March 2005 and commented, “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)… Beharry displayed repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour, despite intense direct attacks, personal injury and damage to his vehicle in the face of relentless enemy action.”
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