Saturday, March 19, 2005

More Brit Army Humor

Further to my post referencing the Brit sense of humor, The Guardian reports the Victoria Cross citation for Private Johnson Beharry, 1st Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. This is the highest Brit medal and is the first since the Falklands.

The citation, describes his "great heroism" in two separate encounters in the town of Amara, north of Basra, last summer. In the first, on May 1, the Warrior armoured vehicle he was driving was hit by multiple rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

"As a result of this ferocious initial volley of fire, both the platoon commander and the vehicle's gunner were incapacitated by concussion and other wounds, and a number of the soldiers in the rear of the vehicle were also wounded."

Pte Beharry, continues the citation, "assessed that his best course of action to save the lives of his crew was to push through, out of the ambush. He drove his Warrior directly through the barricade, not knowing if there were mines or improvised explosive devices placed there to destroy his vehicle. By doing this he was able to lead the remaining five Warriors behind him towards safety."

Another RPG hit the Warrior. "The flames and force of the blast passed directly over him, down the driver's tunnel, further wounding the semi-conscious gunner in the turret." Pte Beharry was "forced to drive the vehicle along the rest of the ambushed route, some 1,500 metres, with his hatch opened up and his head exposed to enemy fire, all the time with no communications with any other vehicle." A 7.62mm bullet penetrated his helmet and remained lodged on its inner surface.

Pte Beharry then climbed on to the turret of the burning vehicle and, "seemingly oblivious to the incoming enemy small arms fire, manhandled his wounded platoon commander out of the turret, off the vehicle and to the safety of a nearby Warrior". Remounting his burning vehicle for the third time, he drove it through "a complex chicane and into the security of the defended perimeter of the outpost, thus denying it to the enemy".

A few weeks later, on June 11, another Warrior convoy he was leading was ambushed. A grenade detonated six inches from his head. "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," says the citation. He then collapsed, unconscious.

In an interview to mark the citation, Private Beharry was asked what was going through his mind at the time of the attacks?

"An RPG", Pte Beharry promptly replied.