23 July 2008

George Cross to be awarded for Afghanistan

L/Cpl Croucher with the remains of his rucksack

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, 40 Commando Royal Marines, recommended for the Victoria Cross for heroism in Afghanistan, will instead be awarded the George Cross. ZUI this article from The Guardian:
A Royal Marine who survived throwing himself on to an exploding grenade in Afghanistan to protect the lives of his colleagues is to receive the George Cross, it emerged today.

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, 24, will become one of a handful of living recipients of the award, which ranks alongside the Victoria Cross as the highest decoration for bravery.


The George Cross ranks alongside the Victoria Cross as the highest decoration for acts of gallantry.

The only difference is that the GC is awarded for acts not in the presence of the enemy, but the level of heroism required for the two honours is the same.

To date, 157 GCs have been awarded directly, with 47 of those awarded since 1947.

ZUI also this article from The telegraph:
L/Cpl Matthew Croucher will become part of a select of group of just 20 living George Cross holders when the Queen awards him the medal, which is given for acts showing the same level of heroism as the Victoria Cross.

The Marine had less than seven seconds to make up his mind on whether to risk sacrificing his own life to save his friends when the hand grenade rolled onto the ground during an operation in Afghanistan earlier this year.

Without hesitating he chose to chance death and save his three fellow Royal Marines.


"It took 30 seconds before I realised I was definitely not dead," he said.

The astonished Marines looked on as L/Cpl Croucher's body armour and backpack shielded everyone from the blast which caused a few cuts and bruises.

L/Cpl Croucher was examined by a medic who recommended he should be evacuated but the Marine, who has completed three tours of Iraq, was determined to stay to fight the Taliban and within an hour had shot an insurgent approaching their position.

In an earlier instance of bravery the Marine attended a comrade shot in the chest preventing his lungs from collapsing while under fire for 45 minutes.

This article from the Birmingham (West Midlands) Mail includes more information about the George Cross. Wikipedia has a list of the twenty living George Cross recipients.

Update 0949 25 Jul: ZUI this article from the MOD Defence News, which includes the text of the GC citation and quotes from L/Cpl Croucher.
"Automatically sensed an extreme fear when I looked down at the ground and realised that there was a grenade with the pin pulled at my feet. It was one of those where I had a split second decision what to do. I had a quick look around and realised that there was no real place to take cover.

"There were two guys initially right behind me and a third just a bit further back, so I felt a bit guilty for setting the device off. I thought that the best course of action for everyone including myself was to lie right next to the grenade, point my body armour towards it with my day sack and take the brunt of the explosion and see what happens from there.

"I was more less along side of it to create a barrier and when I was on the ground I was just gritting my teeth waiting for the explosion and I had that deep gut feeling of this is going to hurt, or I'm in serious trouble now.

"It felt like someone had run up to me and kicked me in the back really hard, along with a loss of hearing, ears in extreme pain and a throbbing head. Then body started aching and there was a smell of burning. Total disorientation.

"The battery took the brunt of the shrapnel which came from the grenade. It was blown about ten metres away or so and started flaming furiously so we all thought it was a secondary device that had gone off in the compound so everyone took cover again looking at this battery that was flaming away. It's lucky that the battery was blown off me otherwise I would have had serious burns from that as well."

According to the George Cross Database, which also includes Inspector Carl Walker GC, Lancashire Constabulary, there are now 21 living recipients.

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