25 March 2005
PRIVATE JOHNSON BEHARRY RECEIVES THE VICTORIA CROSS
Private Johnson Beharry of The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment received the first Victoria Cross to be awarded since 1982 in an Investiture at Buckingham Palace on 27 April 2005.
Private Beharry also became the first non-posthumous British Forces recipient of the Victoria Cross since 1965.
Private Beharry received the Victoria Cross for two individual acts of great heroism that saved the lives of his comrades while under direct enemy fire.
In the early hours of 1 May 2004, Private Beharry's company moved into the city of Al Amarah in order to assist a Foot Patrol which was under enemy fire.
The Private's vehicle was hit, incapacitating two of his crew and destroying the radio system of his Warrior tank. Private Beharry drove on, despite constant enemy fire. Because his vehicle was filled with smoke, he had to drive with the hatch open and his head exposed. One bullet struck his helmet and lodged inside it.
When he reached the outpost which was under attack, Private Beharry left his vehicle, leaving himself exposed to enemy fire, in order to pull his platoon commander to safety.
On a separate occasion, whilst leading a platoon of tanks, the Private's vehicle was hit by enemy fire. One rocket-propelled grenade smashed into the armoured front of the vehicle six inches from Beharry's head causing him serious head injury.
Although Private Beharry's vision was obscured by blood, he reversed his Warrior out of the danger zone until it struck a wall and he lost consciousness. His actions enabled other Warriors to come to his rescue and move his crew to safety.
The Private enlisted in the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in August 2001. After completing his training at the Infantry Training Centre, he joined the first Battalion of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in March 2002.
The history of the Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross was instituted after the Crimean War by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Often known as 'the first modern war' because it was the first conflict to be widely reported and photographed, the Crimean War was also the first time that many became fully aware of the horrors of war and the acts of courage and bravery which were required of soldiers.
In order to recognise those who had carried out acts of great courage, Queen Victoria instituted the Victoria Cross in January 1856.
The decoration is the highest award for valour in the United Kingdom and is open to all ranks of the armed forces.
Prince Albert worked with the government on the drafting of the Royal Warrant, and Queen Victoria chose the final design, suggesting the motto 'For Valour'.
The medal was, and still is, cast from the bronze of cannon captured in the Crimean War.
On the instigation of the medal, an announcement was made giving the criteria for recipients:
"It is ordained that the Cross shall only be awarded for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."
Criteria for the award are strict and the Victoria Cross is one of the most rarely awarded military honours.
Since World War Two there have been eleven Victoria Crosses awarded, ten during the current Queen's reign. Five of these were given by The Queen to the actual recipient, three were given by The Queen posthumously and two were given by the Governor General of Australia, Lord Casey.
The last Investiture for a living recipient at Buckingham Palace was in 1966.