Thursday, July 24, 2008

Part-time soldier, full-time hero...

Delighted to hear that a TA soldier is to be awarded the prestigious George Cross after hurling himself on a grenade in Afghanistan to save his comrades.

As a former range conducting officer in the Territorial Army, responsible for training soldiers on live grenades, I've seen the horrendous damage that such weapons can inflict.

More to the point, Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher would have also known that as he felt the pressure of a trip-wire on his shin which pulled the pin from a lethal Taliban grenade, he had less than four seconds to access the dire situation, weigh up his options, and take decisive action.

He instinctively shouted 'GRENADE' to warn his comrades and dived on the grenade. Then had the presence of mind to realise that the backpack of kit he was wearing might absorb some of the impact. So flipped over on his back and waited to meet his maker.

His bravery almost certainly saved his own life - and the lives of three other Royal Marines he was patrolling with in Helmand Province at a suspected Taliban bomb factory.

Amazingly, Lance Corporal Croucher survived with a nose-bleed, temporary deafness and bruising. But he refused medical assistance, and turned what could have been catastrophe to advantage, setting an ambush for the Taliban who would come to investigate the the explosion, instigating a firefight which saw a Taliban fighter taken out.

For me, the professionalism of Lance Corporal Croucher demonstrates the extraordinary value of the Territorial Army, which celebrates 100 years of distinguished service to the nation this year.

Since 2003, some 15,000 British reservist soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting shoulder-to shoulder with our regular soldiers in some of the most ferocious close-quarter action since the Second World War.

Lance Corporal Croucher's action is also a tribute to the training of the Royal Marines - in my opinion the finest soldiers in the British Army and arguably anywhere in the world.

Fittingly, Lance Corporal Croucher's civilian job when not serving with 40 Commando Royal Marines, is running a risk assessment company.

His story had Radio 2 presenter Sarah Kennedy overcome with tears as she highlighted the bravery of Lance Corporal Croucher.

Sadly, as news of the medal was released, we were again reminded of the ferocity of the fighting in Afghanistan with the death of another British soldier.


Anonymous said...

Lions led by donkeys.

Anonymous said...

Just read your piece and thought other readers might be interested in a remarkable book called In Foreign Fields: Heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan in their own words.

It is a collection of interviews with 25 soldiers/Marines/RAF personnel who have won medals for bravery in the two conflict zones. The bravery of those included mirror that of Lance Corporal Croucher. It is a truly humbling read.

here's a link