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Barefoot Soldier

Johnson Beharry VC

VC hero Johnson Beharry speaks at the National Army Museum

"I have seen this moment many times in my dreams. My thoughts slow and for a split second I see the mess we have stumbled into as if I am above the street, looking down. I cannot reverse. Whiskey Two One, hard on my tail, is already moving into the killing zone. I am leading them into a massacre."

VC hero Private Johnson Beharry speaks at the National Army Museum on 11 October, a week after the publication of his awaited memoirs, Barefoot Soldier.

In conversation with co-author Nick Cook, Private Beharry will describe the events of his Grenada childhood, early life in the UK and the events that influenced his decision to join the British Army – and led him to Iraq. His actions there in May and June 2004 saved the lives of thirty of his comrades, and earned him Britain’s greatest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross for ‘valour of the highest order’.

Born in Grenada in 1979 as one of eight children, Beharry walked the three miles to school each day barefoot. Fear of becoming like his violent, alcoholic father led him, after dropping out of school, moving to the UK and experimenting with drink and drugs, to cut off his dreadlocks and join the British Army.

On 1 May 2004 Beharry moved his armoured vehicle to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. He drove through the ambush despite being hit by many rocket-propelled grenades, and extracted his wounded comrades from the vehicle whilst still under fire. He was cited for "valour of the highest order".

Six weeks later, another rocket-propelled grenade hit the vehicle he was driving, incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew, including Beharry himself. Despite serious head wounds for which he would later require brain surgery, Johnson maintained control of the vehicle and manoeuvred out of the ambush area before finally losing consciousness. This "repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour" earned him the only VC issued by the British Army in the last 22 years.

Johnson is the first living recipient of the VC since 1969. He insists that he was merely "doing his job".

Tickets for Johnson Beharry’s Celebrity Lecture are available from the Museum Shop on extension 2240. £15.00 each.

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